Inside: Music is a powerful way to help kids with learning disabilities. All learning disabilities start with auditory processing and music strengthens the auditory cortex which in turn helps children and teens challenged by learning disabilities. Here are ways music can help.
Learning Disabilities and Children
Does your child suffer from a learning disability? Did you know that 25% or one out of every four children entering school today has learning disabilities? In other words, 25 children out of 100 children suffer from learning disabilities.
Learning disabilities are not only on the rise…they are complex. Why? Because they involve layers of problems. Most children with learning disabilities suffer from many layered issues that affect their abilities to learn. For instance, an LD (learning disabled) child can experience some of the following issues and some children may experience all of these to some degree:
- Sensory Integration (SI)
- Auditory Processing Disorder
- Visual Motor Disorder
- Visual Processing
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
- Delayed language
Learning Disabilities Start With Auditory Processing Disorder
All learning disabilities start with auditory processing. This means the child does not have a problem hearing but has difficulty processing what he/she hears. This exacerbates other learning issues. For instance, a child with an auditory processing disorder may have delayed language because she is not able to process sound correctly. Other children will exhibit attention disorders because trying to process information is so difficult that can’t stay on task. Others will have problems with spelling, writing and overall learning.
Most have difficulty reading. Why? Because when a child learns to read they use ears first, eyes second. They need to hear the nuances and sounds of the letters before they can pronounce the words which require processing sounds–an auditory function.
As mentioned in another blog, my son Brandon had a traumatic birth that left him with brain damage. As a result, he was severely learning disabled. He had all the learning issues mentioned above. To complicate the problem, he had constant ear infections that would clear up but the fluid in his ears did not, causing him to hear sounds as if he was hearing them in a vacuum.
I started by addressing his auditory processing disorder. In the beginning, I enrolled him in speech and language, the Linda-Mood Bell program and the Tomatis program (filtered music). All of these programs were excellent and definitely helped, but what really helped was enrolling him in ongoing music lessons where he had to practice daily. While he was doing homework, he listened to certain pieces of classical music.
Success was not immediate–but in time, Brandon’s cognitive skills improved immensely along with his language, auditory processing, and visual motor skills. Brandon went on to graduate from college (the experts said he never would) and fulfill dreams we thought impossible when he was young. Music was the catalyst to his success.
Music Strengthens the Auditory Cortex
In order to help a child with auditory processing, you need to expose them to something that strengthens the auditory cortex.
That something is MUSIC.
In chapter eight of my book, Good Music Brighter Children I talk about how music can be a powerful catalyst for kids who suffer from a variety of learning disabilities.
Music strengthens the auditory, visual and motor cortices of the brain–simultaneously–and all areas of the brain affected by learning disabilities.
Here are some suggestions:
Enroll your child in music lessons. It’s important that they practice every day because learning a musical instrument gives the brain a healthy workout which translates into your child learning easier and more effectively.
Here are some instruments to consider:
- Brass instruments such as tuba, trombone or trumpet. These are good instruments for children with learning issues because they do not use as many fingers as most instruments
- Piano. The piano is a percussion instrument and your learning disabled child may have difficulty at first learning to play the piano because they have to look at the music and the correct keys to strike. But, it’s an excellent instrument for stretching their brain as they use both hands, feet (for the pedals), eyes to see the music and ears to hear the music. It involves many processes This was the instrument I had my son learn.
- Voice. When a child learns to sing they are strengthening the auditory cortex as they learn to sing on pitch. Think of it as aerobics for the brain.
Filtered Music: Integrated Listening Systems
Another option is enrolling your child in programs that incorporate acoustically modified music such as Tomatis or Integrated Listening Systems. The later program was not around when Brandon was young, but I did have him enrolled in Tomatis.
Alene Villaneda, an educational therapist and owner of Integrated Learning Strategies uses acoustically modified music as one therapy to help LD children.
She uses a sound therapy program called Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) and Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) for her students. Since 1994 her company, Integrated Learning Strategies, has worked with children who have a variety of learning disabilities including auditory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, sensory processing disorders, speech and language issues, and autism.
Specifically speaking, she helps children who suffer from issues relating to
- auditory processing (both receptive and expressive language)
- vestibular issues (the foundational system for visual and auditory)
- gross and fine motor problems
- memory and concentration
- anyone who wants to have better listening skills
The iLs and ABT programs use filtered classical music; particularly the music of Mozart while the children are concurrently doing specific movements and engaging in visual stimulation. This network of sensory systems being simultaneously stimulated—auditory, visual, vestibular, motor, and even emotional control produces amazing results. The child listens to music through headphones.
Filtered Music Spells Success for Learning Disabilities
Here are some of the results her clients have experienced after using the iLs and ABT programs.
A nine-year-old girl came to Villaneda with severe comprehension and auditory processing problems, as well as attention issues. She also wore very thick glasses. Normally, it would have taken thirty months to fully address these problems, but by combining the iLs program with movement, the young girl experienced a remarkable turnaround in just eighteen months.
She no longer has to repeatedly ask her teacher for clarification of what is said in class (auditory issues), she understands what she reads (auditory and comprehension), her attention span has drastically improved (vestibular/auditory), and even her vision has improved to where her glasses have needed adjustments.
Villaneda began working with an autistic boy when he was seven years old. Although he suffered from expressive language issues, he did understand what people said to him. At the time, he was in a special classroom at school and had difficulty with stemming—a term used to describe constant wiggling and shaking. Villaneda started him on the iLs program, and within six short months, he was talking and reading. Today, he is now in a mainstream classroom. Although he is receiving additional interventions, his parents described his change as “an awakening.”
When five-year-old Monica came to Villaneda, she could not sit still and could not bounce a ball or catch or throw a beanbag. She was unable to focus on an object, could not coordinate her eyes, and never noticed anything around her. Monica appeared normal but would have severe temper tantrums and extreme bouts of anger. Additionally, she did not show any affection toward her parents or siblings.
Within a few short months of being on the iLs program, Monica was transformed: she became grounded, she could throw and catch a beanbag, she became very observant of everything around her, she asked questions, and, best of all, she became a very affectionate child.
Music can help LD children. Learning a musical instrument or being involved in one of the listening programs will strengthen your child’s auditory, visual and motor areas of the brain–all areas needed for successful learning in school.
Choose a program and enroll your LD child today. Based on the experiences I had with my son–music can and does make a difference for kids who struggle to learn.
Do you have any experience using music to help your learning disabled child? Please comment in the section below.
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