Contrary to popular belief, kids with Down’s syndrome are not severely retarded, but fall into the middle ground in terms of disability.
In my experience, kids with Down’s have several common qualities, many of which indicate a superior musical sense.
I find that Down’s kids have excellent musical memories. They can retain complex series of notes and reproduce them, if given enough repetition.
And that repetition is another of their strong suits. They don’t mind doing the same thing over and over, if it is pleasing, which music at the piano surely is.
Reading music may be a problem, as I have found with all the kids with Down’s that I have worked with. But they are very good with numbers, which is why Piano by Number is a natural choice for them.
If you can find one of their favorite songs, and translate it into numbers, or find it in one of our books, they will be very pleased, for Down’s kids have a full range of feelings.
Playing a favorite song is thus a very special pleasure for them, spurring them on to learn more about the piano.
There are also self-esteem issues involved. Being able to play a familiar song may not seem like much to “normal” kids, but to a Down’s kid it is a singular victory over his environment and condition.
These special kids also have a very good sense of rhythm. In fact, a child I taught with a severe Down’s condition did very well with Piano by Number. But when I showed him how to play rhythmic games, he was the best I have ever seen.
This child could take musical dictation, at least in terms of rhythm. That means that I could chant any rhythm and he would answer back exactly what I had done.
His Mom picked up on this and bought him a second hand drum set. We put it next to the piano and our little band was born. We played any song that he knew, so there were a lot of TV and film themes and game tunes and Disney.
He played a blistering backbeat to my piano solo, and we sang when we thought about it.
He supplied fills and added little details and flourishes that only a talented percussionist might think of.
If you find music they know and love, you may have a very natural young musician in any one of these kids.
It’s a hobby these special kids can love forever.
By John Aschenbrenner Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press All Rights Reserved
See also our SPECIAL EDUCATION section.
See also AMAZING MUSICAL ABILITIES OF AUTISTIC AND ADHD CHILDREN
See also HYPERACTIVE KIDS AND PIANO
See alsoTHE PIANO WHISPERER
See also TEACH YOUR CHILDREN PIANO
See also PIANO BY NUMBER FOR A SEVERELY DISABLED GIRL