• Regis
    Posts: 9
    I was wondering if anyone has experience dealing with children in choirs who very clearly have Attention Deficit Disorder?

    This year I have one third grader who is probably the worst case of this I have ever seen. She has been coming to a main children's choir rehearsal, plus a small group session with two other girls where we work on musical skills. Although I can get her to focus enough to work on pitch matching in the smaller session, whenever we work on group activities she seems hopeless. What makes this case worse is that she doesn't just sit there staring into space like other ADD kids I've seen. She's constantly dropping her music and her folder, taking music out of her folder, knocking over her chair when she's standing etc., which has clearly begun distracting my other choristers. I've tried giving her a 12 year old "mentor" to sit next to her, but this doesn't seem to be helping. Also. saying things to her like: "Mary, you have to pay attention, ok?..Mary, I really need to you to focus right now.." isn't working because it's clear she just can't do it.

    An adult choir member of mine witnessed some of this the other day and advised me that I tell her father that this isn't working-- that she's not getting anything out of it and that it's distracting other children. I'm reluctant to do that, but much of what he said made sense to me. I would be grateful for advice if anyone else has had similar experiences.

  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Maybe you can try to set smaller goals for her.(with her) Something like if she memorised a phrase, give her a prize that is tangible. I used to have pretty pebbles or marbles and put one at a time into a glass jar whenever the group or an individual achieves the goal (something like all have their eyes on you for the phrase, or sing it without breathing in the middle) When the jar is full, they are very happy and get some rewards, (almost anything works, stickers, get to pick a song to sing for a whole group... They get excited when all the pebbles go in the jar.)

    ADD children can be very smart, creative and focused. Maybe you can sit down with her and set goals together to achieve for each month, if she is really interested in singing. It's almost impossible to focus for ADD kids to focus if they are not interested in what they are doing without medical help.
    I read somewhere Michael Phelp is ADD, super focused. (her mom says the lane in the pool also helped him to focus.)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,232
    I can't offer any advice based on experience, but I'm wondering what approaches you've tried so far. Have you approached this as a classroom teacher would? There's certainly information on the net about how to teach children who have ADD. For example,
  • I have a child who has the symptoms of an ADHD child myself. I find him very difficult in groups. He does distract the others and finds it difficult to focus. I find the Ward stuff, where the children have to really concentrate on the arm movements and the notes really helps. Trying to trick them with various note patterns, etc. They love it if they are allowed to help in any way usually... give him a job to do and he is in heaven... passing out books, gathering them back up... organizing chalk... cleaning chalkboards... movement and activity help a great deal. I find that the stick doesn't work well. Use the carrot!

    If you have too large a group for the attention this one child demands, perhaps it would be an instance where working with her individually separate from class (if possible) would allow her to progress musically while she is learning to control herself as she gets older (instead of attending rehearsals, so you can get something done with the rest of them). Perhaps you could also have to ask a parent to be present and sitting next to the child to keep her in order during the rehearsals so that you don't have to focus all your attention on her. She'll probably be more able to control herself for this sort of thing in a few more years. My son gets better with each passing year. If, at all possible, allow her to remain a part of the group or find a positive alternative... the rejection of being 'kicked out' is devastating. Perhaps she should try playing a musical instrument? I found that the more intense focus demanded of playing a viola helps keep my boy fully occupied. And, he seems to have a good talent for it.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    At the risk of sounding mean and stern and cruel, I'm going to add my two cents to this. We all want the kids to learn to sing. That's why we're here. And it is a wonderful opportunity to have a group of children to teach and bring along in singing the music of the Church. I've dealt with similar situations with groups of children, and sometimes have found that sometimes nothing works.

    Why is that nowadays we are so concerned that every child be given every opportunity to do everything? Some children may not be suited for sitting in a classroom, much less functioning as a part of a children's choir or schola. I was certainly not suited to be on a soccer or softball team when I was in school, and it would have been ridiculous for my parents to have insisted that I be included in team practice no matter what.

    signed, Devil's Advocate (once again)
  • Well said, Arlene!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,494
    There is a difference between children who are badly behaved and those who have diagnosed ADHD. Some of the former have never been made to behave, so they don't. I can only relate what works for me as a teacher. The ADHD children become my assistants with jobs to do. Then I have several pairs of eyes seeing things I may miss. These children can handle many routine things while learning. It works well for both of us. I would agree that people are not always suited to every activity. But it seems that in the world of choirs, it's almost certain you will have one or two of the "unsuited."
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    If it works out with a particular child, I think that is wonderful. And yes, children who cannot behave are another issue entirely.

    But most of us are not trained to identify which of the problems we are dealing with here, much less properly diagnose the exact disorder of a child who seems lacking in classroom decorum. One would hope that parents of these ADHD children would come to us, especially as choir directors in churches, and let us know that their children have special needs and work with us on how to bring out their best in a group situation.

    I strongly doubt that this is a typical scenario, however. And we must remember not only the needs of that child, but the needs of the group at large and the greater good.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    It might be a good idea when they sign up for the choir they fill out the registration form, whch has a corner "Anything the director should know, such as athsma, allergy, ADD..."