Changing Lives with Music: Stephen Oliverson


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dr. Stephen Oliverson is principal of Provost Elementary in Provo, Utah. In 2014, Provost was named a National Title I Distinguished School, one of only 59 schools nationwide to receive this honor. What was Dr. Oliverson’s secret to this success? The answer (which is no surprise to us): music. The instructional day was rearranged so that every student at Provost received musical enrichment.  This led to increased proficiency in math, science, and reading, long with a host of other benefits.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In Oliverson’s interview with the Provo Daily Herald, he shared his secret for academic success:

“We do a couple of things that are really unique to our school. That is our involvement in the arts. Exposing children deeply in the arts has academic payoffs in literacy and math.

Every student at our school knows how to play the piano, violin, flute and guitar. The whole fourth grade takes violin lessons four days a week, all year long. We expose students to other instruments in fifth and sixth grade after they have that strong string base.”

Daily Herald, February, 2014

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In his presentation at the 2015 National Title I Conference, Oliverson detailed the benefits of a curriculum rich in musical instruction.

  • Flourishes artistic and personal expression
  • Promotes motor task competency
  • Linked to greater likelihood of graduation
  • Sharpens cognitive function
  • Develops superior reading ability
  • Enhances social skills
  • It makes your GPA better
  • Improves emotional outlook
  • Protective against dementia
  • Significant predictor of of higher IQ in early adulthood

Stephen Oliverson and Lauri Driggs, 2014 Title I Conference Presentation

 [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Beyond his successes as a principal, Oliverson and his family are accomplised musical performers in their own right. He plays the piano and composes, and all of his children play violin. Moon Light is the name of the family’s musical group; they perform across the country. Here they are performing an original composition (written by Dr. Oliverson and his daughter, Aubree) tiled Spartacus. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Growing Up in Kindermusik

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When I became licensed to teach Kindermusik way back in 1994, I never imagined what the next twenty-something years would hold for me…or the hundreds of children and families I’ve been privileged to hold in my heart all this time.

Twenty plus years means that many of those babies I had in my lap are now all grown up, and I’m even starting to see a few come back around to teach for me or to bring their own tiny baby to his first class.  I still run into those Kindermusik moms who are always so eager to thank me and to proudly tell me that so-and-so went on to study music, or is playing with a music group, or still sits down at the piano to play.

So many of these Kindermusik kids not only went all the way through our Kindermusik program, but stayed on at our music school to take music lessons.  And every single one of those parents and kids all recall with great fondness and warmth just how important Kindermusik was to them in those early years.

So what exactly does it mean to “grow up in Kindermusik”?  Here’s a bit of perspective from my own years as a Kindermusik mom, a Kindermusik educator, and Director of Piano Central Studios.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Theresa Case
Theresa Case works her magic with a young musician (yes, friends – Kindermusik Educators are magicians!)


Growing up in Kindermusik means…

  • Being allowed to gently unfold and blossom at their own pace, thus deepening their love of music and ensuring that love would stay in their hearts for the rest of their lives.
  • Reveling in a nurturing environment where each individual was lovingly encouraged to be themselves, to play and be curious and creative, and along the way, to discover for themselves just how much they could come to love making music.
  • Finding a place to belong, to linger in the delights of childhood, and to savor moments that will never be forgotten.
  • Asking for music to continue to be a part of their lives even after Kindermusik, by continuing on with music lessons.
  • Pursuing music as a career or maintaining their musical skills as a beloved hobby.
  • Forever having a story, a memory, or a song to share from being in Kindermusik class and enjoying Kindermusik together at home throughout the week.
  • Gratefully acknowledging parents who recognized the power of music not only to shape their children developmentally, socially, and cognitively, but also to nurture their souls and give them great joy the rest of their lives.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]My experience has held true over and over and over again. Growing up in Kindermusik is one of the best ways a parent – and a Kindermusik teacher – can let a child grow up.


Shared by Theresa Case, Director of Piano Central Studios in Greenville, South Carolina[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Planting Seeds that Grow: Music for a Lifetime

Seeds that Grow

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We’ve listed the endless benefits of an early childhood saturated in musical experiences before (and we’ll keep doing it, too!). The science is in: music is good for the brain. It’s good for the body. It helps build all types of intelligence. Music making positively impacts language development, creativity, and coordination. When you make music with others, it increases empathy and trust. The list of music’s benefits, particularly for our young ones, seems to constantly grow. 

But there’s a benefit that we haven’t really talked about too much: regularly enriching the young life with music leads to a lifetime of music appreciation. It’s really an investment, right? By planting the seeds early, we see beautiful green shoots poke through the surface that will lead to fully-bloomed musical flowers, flowers that will add dazzling colors to the entirety of life’s journey. 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Here’s the truth friends. Every child is born a natural musician. Every child is born a natural artist. From the first sounds we hear from them, there’s music present. We are musical beings at heart. Don’t you hear music in your baby’s babbling? I know I did. Watch this short video of a mother and child exploring different tones – to the great amusement of both.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]That little girl was composing! She was exploring different pitches as her mother interacted with her. She was exploring her musical voice.

What about this little one mimicking her mother’s song? Friends – this is magic. You can see her going back and forth from listening and copying.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

The Next Steps

These attempts to copy what they hear, lead to music-making on their own. How many times did you hear your baby over the monitor singing in the crib? Making music often becomes a method to self-soothe. Remember? Making music releases endorphins which lower cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the body.

These parents caught their daughter singing Darth Vader’s Imperial March in her crib.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][vc_column_text]Every child’s a singer. Every child’s a drummer. But as we move through our young lives, without regular musical activity and encouragement, we lose a little of that sense of endless possibility. There’s a wonderful story about a group of kids that were studied over the course of several years. In kindergarten, they were asked, “How many of you can sing?” EVERYBODY’S hand shot up. A chorus of “Me! Me! I can!” rang through the room.

Four years later, that group was asked the same question. “How many of you can sing?” There was still a largely positive response, but certainly fewer hands went up.

In middle school, they were asked again. “Who here is a singer?”

Less than half of the room responded affirmatively.

By the time this group of kids was in high school, the number of kids that thought of themselves as possessing the capacity to sing well dropped to 10%.

Somewhere along the way, they forgot that in infancy, each of them was a singing, drumming, dancing artist who brought musical beauty into the world.

So what do we do? How do we keep them engaged?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Give Them Experiences!

It’s simple, really. Constantly bring music into your kids’ lives. Start while they’re in the womb. Have music playing when they are born. Sing to them every day. Play music for them. Bring them to kid appropriate concerts. As they get older, make daily activities like cleaning up or making the bed musical activities. Make up silly songs for everything.

Make music their second language. These are the seeds that lead to those shoots of green that lead to a garden of life full of musical flowers. The more experiences you give them, like our wonderful Kindermusik classes, will get them addicted to something that will only enhance the quality of their lives.

Music feeds the mind…music feeds the body…music feeds the soul.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Kids Need to be Kids

Kids be kids

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Author and early childhood education expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige makes the case for authentic educational experiences, less concerned with assessment and more concerned with experiences that give kids what they need – opportunities to be kids.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Taking Back Childhood

Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige knows a thing or two about childhood development. For 30 years, she trained teachers at Lesley University and is critical of educational models that focus on standardized tests. Dr. Carlsson-Paige’s focus can be found right in the subtitle of her book: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative, Compassionate Kids.  But how do we do this? In her acceptance speech upon receiving the Deborah Meier Award by the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, she said the following, published in the Washington Post:

I have loved my life’s work – teaching teachers about how young children think, how they learn, how they develop socially, emotionally, morally. I’ve been fascinated with the theories and science of my field and seeing it expressed in the actions and the play of children.

So never in my wildest dreams could I have foreseen the situation we find ourselves in today.

Where education policies that do not reflect what we know about how young children learn could be mandated and followed. We have decades of research in child development and neuroscience that tell us that young children learn actively — they have to move, use their senses, get their hands on things, interact with other kids and teachers, create, invent. But in this twisted time, young children starting public pre-K at the age of 4 are expected to learn through “rigorous instruction.”

And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.

Play is the primary engine of human growth; it’s universal – as much as walking and talking. Play is the way children build ideas and how they make sense of their experience and feel safe. Just look at all the math concepts at work in the intricate buildings of kindergartners. Or watch a 4-year-old put on a cape and pretend to be a superhero after witnessing some scary event.

But play is disappearing from classrooms. Even though we know play is learning for young kids, we are seeing it shoved aside to make room for academic instruction and “rigor.”

– Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige


Play: Let Kids Be Kids

Dr. Carlsson-Paige reminds us that some of the most important competencies can’t be tested.[/vc_column_text][blockquote cite=”Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige”]”Self-regulation, problem solving ability, social and emotional competence, imagination, initiative, curiosity, original thinking — these capacities make or break success in school and life and they can’t be reduced to numbers.”[/blockquote][vc_column_text]Letting kids be kids, letting them experience the world through interaction with peers in a safe environment, supervised by caring, trained educators is incredibly beneficial as children develop. Where can we find these opportunities? Often, in many districts, even at the kindergarten level, the school day is rigidly structured, with little time for creative play, and that, as Dr. Carlsson-Paige points out, is one of the three things young children need:

Time and Space for Creative Play

Feeling of Security

Strong Meaningful Relationships with Adults and other Children


Love Above All

This is key. I know – it sounds like a line, but love is empathy and caring in action. Kids learn how to interact with others by actually interacting with others. And in those interactions, especially starting from age two, they begin to understand empathy and caring. Social and emotional coaching from trusted adults guides kids through this development. When you see one child sharing with another…when you see one child helping another up after he tripped, you are seeing love in action.

If young children don’t receive these experiences that positively shape their developmental progress in school, where can they find them? Where can they experience all three of Dr. Carlsson-Paige’s legs that support the table of childhood? Kindermusik fits the bill. Here are 10 benefits of enrolling:

Benefit #1: Kindermusik gives your child that unique head start you’ve been looking for – musically, cognitively, and academically.

Benefit#2: Kindermusik inspires a love of music from an early age with songs, instruments, and activities that are just right for each age and every stage.

Benefit #3: Kindermusik enhances every area of your child’s development – we are so much more than just music!

Benefit #4: Kindermusik gives you the time and the tools to enjoy quality time with your child – in class and at home.

Benefit #5: Kindermusik Home Materials let you take the music, fun, and learning with you all week long, wherever you go.

Benefit #6: Kindermusik classes provide a happy social outlet for your child and a valuable support network for you.

Benefit #7: All Kindermusik activities are research-proven and giggle-approved, and all are supported by a developmental and musical focus.

Benefit #8: Kindermusik lays a strong foundation for future success in school and in formal music lessons later on.

Benefit #9: Kindermusik is something you and your child will use every day – at home or on the go!

Benefit #10: Kindermusik offers a comprehensive program with the potential for positively impacting your child from newborn all the way to 7 years of age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Check out Dr. Carlsson-Paige’s book. It is a research-based, compassionate approach to guiding the development of children, written by a veteran collegiate educator who is also the mother of two successful, artist sons.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Bilingual Babies: Musical Benefits!

Bilingual Baby

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]An article with a title like, “Bilingual Babies Are Better at Detecting Musical Sounds, Research Shows”, definitely captures our attention here at Kindermusik!  What’s just as fascinating to us as anything else is how this article identifies benefits of bilingualism that are also benefits of beginning to learn the universal language of music at a very young age.

For example, our Kindermusik library of music includes songs in other languages and music from around the world.  And just like “exposure to multiple languages may sharpen infants’ music sensitivity in the first year after birth,” according to new research cited in the article, exposure to the language of music through a variety of music sung in other languages and music from other cultures also enhances both language development and musical sensitivity.

But it’s not only language development that’s enhanced by being musically “multilingual.”  Other benefits also referenced in this article include:

  • Enhanced listening skills
  • More abstract thinking skills
  • Heightened ability to discriminate between sounds
  • More sensitivity to visual cues in language
  • Better social communication skills
  • Increased capacity for working memory
  • Greater cognitive functionality

It’s clear that early exposure to the language of music has some surprising short- and long-term benefits.  But with over 30 years as the world’s leader in music and movement education, all of us here at Kindermusik know from all of the smiles, giggles, and hugs that there are also lots of happy together time and magical moments of bonding and together time as a result of learning music in a class like Kindermusik too!


Shared by Theresa Case, director of Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Big Brains! Music Feeds Brain Development

brain on music

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Science tells us what we, as music educators, already know: music is good for brain development. We constantly see study after study that verifies what we see on a daily basis in the young musicians with whom we interact. Recently, a study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute indicated that early exposure to musical instruction increases the development of the brain in children below the age of seven. The study reenforced the connection of music and stronger math, language, and reading skills. And we also know that when you make music with another person, you are more likely to empathize with them.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This study began in 2012 and over the course of the past 5 years, the researchers followed the progress of  3 groups of students, all six to seven years of age at the study’s outset. Dr. Assal Habibi explains:

We started the study when one group of children were about to begin music training through the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program. This free community-based music program was inspired by El Sistema, a music program that was started in Venezuela and proved to be “tranformative” in changing the lives of underprivileged children.

The second group of children were about to begin a sports training program with a community-based soccer program. They were not engaged in music training.

A third group of children were from public schools and community centers in the same areas of Los Angeles. All three groups of children were from equally underprivileged and ethnic minority communities of Los Angeles. 


So What Happened?

The researchers constantly checked in with all students in the study, measuring different points of brain development. The findings have been promising, and indicate that musical instruction during early childhood can have a positive impact on how quickly the young mind develops and acquires new skills. Sound processing, as you might imagine, is a big part of music, but also language acquisition. Dr. Habibi expands…

Children in the music group…had stronger brain response to differences in pitch compared to the children in the other groups. We also observed that musically trained children had faster development of the brain pathway responsible for encoding and processing sound.

This finding supports previous findings and highlights music’s important benefits particularly in the development of language and reading.

Check out this TEDxYouth Talk at Caltech on music and the brain by Dr. Beatriz Ilari. Dr. Ilari is a music education professor at USC.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Life Long Benefits

As it turns out – these benefits can last a lifetime. Musical experiences like Kindermusik, can increase brain capacity and the level of active connection between different areas of the brain. So much of brain development occurs in the first seven years of life; these are the years that music can have an incredibly positive impact on the process and well beyond.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So get involved! Check out a class near you and see how our award-winning curriculum can enrich the life of your child…and you. Our classes involve music, movement, and lots of fun. We help your kids develop big brains![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1479179928634{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How Kindermusik Prepares Your Child for School

Why Kindermusik

Early childhood education is important, and at Kindermusik, we believe that you – the parent – are your child’s first and best teacher. But what to do with your child until he is 7 years old? Our classes are the answer!

Parent involvement

Music classes in the early years that include parental involvement and focus on learning in a fun, developmentally appropriate way inspire a lifelong love for learning.

Music classes give your child a place to practice those all-important social skills, like cooperatively play, sharing, and following directions. The best music classes will encourage your child to think creatively, developing critical thinking skills and the ability to problem-solve.

In an environment where process, not performance, is stressed, music classes build self-confidence and a willingness to try new things.

Group Play

Practice with steady beat, enjoying movement activities, and playing instruments help develop coordination and motor skills necessary for cutting with scissors, holding a pencil, or kicking a ball, for example.

Music classes that are teaching children rhymes and then later, the basics of beginning to read music pave the way to literacy.

Music classes that gradually increase a child’s independence at the class help the child more successfully transition to the school classroom.

In these classes, children have the opportunity to bond and interact with their teacher, learning to listen and respond to someone other than the special adults who surround them at home. Science and research have proven time and time again that music positively impacts a child in all areas of development – social/emotional, language, cognitive, physical, and literacy.

Check out this TEDTalk by John Iversen on how music impacts our brains – particularly young brains.

From music skills to life skills, it’s all there in Kindermusik, where music and learning play! Try a class today!

No Surprise: With Music Involvement, You Do Better at Learning

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We know this, but it’s always nice when we find folks who spread the word: kids involved with music are better learners.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Geoff Johnson’s fascinating article also cites Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, a renowned expert on music, neuroimaging and brain plasticity at Harvard Medical School.  “Listening to and making music,” he says, “is not only an auditory experience, but it is a multisensory and motor experience. Making music over a long period of time can change brain function and brain structure.”[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Music and Learning
Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, MD, PhD

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Because of the way music and music-making engages different parts of the brain, music activities actually help children learn how to learn, in addition to stimulating all kinds of brain function and development.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Johnson also highlights a study done by Finnish researchers in 2011.  The findings are impressive.  “…Finnish scientists discovered that listening to music activates a wider series of networks in the brain, and their method of brain mapping revealed complex dynamics of large-scale neural networks.”

Our brains – and our hearts – are hard-wired to respond to music.  Technology allows scientists to see inside our brains, but all the confirmation a parent needs of the power of music even for a very youngest child is to watch her child’s eyes light up in a Kindermusik class at the sound of a favorite dance or lullaby, to feel her child instantly calm at the first sounds of a lullaby, or to see her child kick his legs or start bouncing when the music comes on.  And now we know with every certainty that the more intentional and sustained exposure to music, moving to music, and music-making, the more powerful and long-lasting its effects.

The scientific evidence continues to pile up – it truly is long-term exposure to music that has the greatest effect on learning.  So start early… and keep it up![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been inspiring children and families to learn and make music together for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Apathy vs. Empathy: Creating Compassionate Kids


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I remember when our first child was born; I lectured my in-laws about screen time for our son. “We don’t want him in front of the TV at all.” It was a lofty goal, but one we quickly failed to achieve. We purchased just about every Baby Einstein video known to humankind. Our son loved them. I can actually remember his face light up, big smiles and bouncing in his little activity center seat. He’d always cry when the “static ball” scene appeared. [/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][vc_column_text]Jane Tavyev Asher, MD Child Neurologist, shares advice for parents on what the appropriate amount of screen time is for children depending on their developmental stage.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How many of us have tried to limit screen time, only to cave and allow a bit more than we originally intended? And when it comes to screen time, things have become even more complicated with the rise of personal screens.

Small screens like smartphones and tablets can be incredible tools, but they can also have an impact on how our kids learn to interact with the world. A recent study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles, took two groups of 6th graders – the first attended a nature and science camp that did not allow electronic devices (I’m not sure I could survive!). The second group stayed home.

At the beginning and end of the study, both groups of students were evaluated for their ability to recognize other people’s emotions in photos and videos. The students were shown 48 pictures of faces that were happy, sad, angry or scared, and asked to identify their feelings.

They also watched videos of actors interacting with one another and were instructed to describe the characters’ emotions. In one scene, students take a test and submit it to their teacher; one of the students is confident and excited, the other is anxious. In another scene, one student is saddened after being excluded from a conversation.

The children who had been at the camp improved significantly over the five days in their ability to read facial emotions and other nonverbal cues to emotion, compared with the students who continued to use their media devices.

Stuart Wolpert/UCLA Newsroom

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The researchers concluded what we already know: kids can’t develop empathy staring at an electronic screen. They require human interaction for this important point of growth. When empathy is absent, apathy can fill that void.

Purposeful Interaction

Okay – so we limit screen time. But how can we build compassionate kids? How can we help create a framework for empathy? The answer: purposeful interaction. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

  • Take time to identify emotions in others.

Ask your child questions when you see a good emotional example. “How do you think she feels?” “Is that man sad or happy?” Come up with stories to explain why a person might be smiling. Helping a child pick up on visual cues will establish a foundation.

  • Set the example.

You will be your child’s first and best teacher. The sun will rise and set in your eyes. We all know that what we model, our children will copy. If your child sees you demonstrating empathy on a regular basis, she will follow suit. Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child development specialist, provides the following suggestions on modeling compassion:

  1. Show compassion for other family members.
  2. Show compassion for animals.
  3. Show compassion for playmates.
  • Let your child know you recognize his emotions.

Acknowledging that you are sensitive to your child’s emotional state and talking about it helps develop his ability to process emotions. In turn, he’ll be able to better understand emotions in others. Vanderbilt University provides a wonderful article on this very topic.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As we have mentioned in the past, one of the best ways to aid the development of emotional awareness and empathy is through regular interaction with other children and caring adults. You know where I’m going, right? You can’t blame me – the Kindermusik curricula, the studio experiences and Kindermusik @School, were built from the ground up with this in mind. Among the host of benefits of regular group musical instruction is increased social and emotional development. And that, friends, is a great way to build compassionate kids…kids that are sensitive to the needs of others and possess the ability to express their own emotions in a healthy manner. And I bet we can all agree – the world is a better place when compassion and empathy are present.

ADHD – An Adult Perspective on the Journey


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]According to a 2011 report from the Center for Disease Control, the rate of ADHD diagnoses was 11% in children ages 4 to 17. When I was that age the diagnosis rate was about 3% – 5%. If you want to do the math, I’m 43. Recommendations on how to treat the disorder have changed over the years, and we’ll get to that. But first, I wanted to share my experience, as someone who has dealt with Attention Deficit Disorder his entire life. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]I always had attention issues. Growing up, the only places these issues didn’t plague me were music class, choir, and band. Everywhere else, I had all the classic symptoms: loss of time, easily distracted, constant talking, and the strangest for me – hyperfocus. Hyperfocus manifested itself quite strongly, and I didn’t know what to call it or how to talk about it until years later. When I had moments of hyperfocus, the world around me seemingly slowed down, my heart felt like it was racing, and my periphery narrowed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I was never diagnosed as a child. It was my wife, a public school music teacher, who first suggested that I have myself screened. She witnessed many moments of distraction, loss of focus, and even hyperfocus, which seems counterintuitive to the name of the disorder and its other symptoms. Throughout my undergrad and masters degrees, I was able to use various coping mechanisms in class to overcome ADHD challenges. I’d sit in the front row, constantly ask questions, and borrow friends’ notes, take them home, and retype them. All of this worked until I started my doctoral studies. I finally caved and sought help.

Dr. Boyle speaking to an audience at a recent concert

I’ve often been asked what ADHD (I never experienced the “H” part) felt like. This was my best description: if a thought started at the back of my head, and found completion as it moved to the front of my head, I felt like there was a bundle of straws going in every direction between the back and the front, preventing the thought from making the journey efficiently. In my case, I was diagnosed at age 36, and my doctor and I decided to try a medication. The first day taking the meds I went to the library. It was as if all those straws were lined up in perfect parallel. Those thoughts that were getting lost? They now had a clear path from onset to realization. In the past, I’d get a few pages of notes after a three hour visit to the library. That day? I took 35 pages of well organized notes that stuck in my head in perfect order.

This was the right choice for me. I don’t need to take the medication every day, only when I need it. That usually is when I need to do in-depth, complex reading.

My wife calls them my “do the dishes” pills. She says I notice things that need to be taken care of much more readily if I have taken one on a given day. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Current CDC Recommendations

The CDC now recommends behavior therapy as the first line of treatment in young children. It is beneficial for parents with children who have been diagnosed to learn as much about ADHD and to go through parent training in behavior therapy. The CDC states:

“Children who have ADHD act in ways that are often challenging for parents. Children may forget things they are told, be overly active, and act before thinking. They might not be able to get positive attention the way that other children can; they tend to misbehave and might be punished more frequently than other children. Even if children with ADHD really try to follow rules, they might not be able to. This can have a negative impact on their self-image, and cause them to give up trying or to act up more often.

A therapist skilled in behavior management can help parents understand how ADHD affects their child. Parent training in behavior therapy is used to help change problem behaviors by building parenting skills, improving the relationship between parents and their child with ADHD, and helping children manage their own behaviors.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music and ADHD

But what about music? This is, after all, a music education blog! Well, a recent ADDitude article, the online magazine offering strategies and support for the ADHD community, provided the following:

Music strengthens the areas of the brain that, in the child with ADHD, are weak. Music builds and strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain. These areas are tied to speech and language, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem solving, brain organization, focusing, concentration, and attention issues. Studies indicate that when…children with ADHD learn a musical instrument, attention, concentration, impulse control, social functioning, self-esteem, self-expression, motivation, and memory improve. Some studies show that children who have difficulty focusing when there is background noise are particularly helped by music lessons.”

It makes good sense that these experiences start at an early age. And research supports that. Get them involved from birth. The impact music has on the brain is tremendous.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Sharlene Habernyer, the author of the above referenced ADDitude article, provides a list of strategies she used with her son, Brandon, a child diagnosed with ADHD. Here are some of them:

  • Start group music lessons. When he is about 18 months old, find a group music program for your child.
  • Dance to the music. Movement for an ADHD child is a must! In fact, movement is an indispensable part of learning, thinking, and focusing. As a child moves to different cadences and rhythms, his physical coordination and ability to concentrate improve.
  • Draw what you hear. Many ADHD children are creative and in search of creative outlets. Drawing or doodling engages motor skills, organizes the brain, and stimulates artistic juices. After a busy day at school, and before your child jumps into homework, give her paper and crayons, put on some classical music, and let her draw.
  • Read music books. I’m a strong advocate of reading to your children every day. Reading builds focus, concentration, vocabulary, speech and language, and writing skills. I read many books to our sons, some of which were associated with music: Swine Lake, by James Marshall (a great book to introduce your kids to the ballet Swan Lake), and Lentil, by Robert McCloskey.
  • Start private music lessons between the ages of five and seven. If you are a parent with ADHD, take music lessons along with your child.
  • March in the morning. Children with ADHD usually have a hard time attending to tasks during the busy morning hours. Every morning, play marching music (John Philip Sousa tunes are great) and march from activity to activity — getting dressed, making beds, eating breakfast, brushing teeth — with feet moving and arms swaying.
  • Sing your way to school. Teachers want students to be ready to learn when they come to class. So, on your way to school, sing in the car or play classical music.

So…what are you waiting for? Kindermusik provides experiences that benefit every child. And the more you are involved, the better! [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]