Creative activities can be wonderful experiences for young people (and adults) with NLD. I was fortunate to grow up in a very arts-oriented family in a deeply creative home. I began studying music in elementary school. It would be 10 years before my NLD diagnosis. If I’d known, I would have done some things differently (and had these conversations with teachers and other adults). Following are some tips for musical practice and study:
-Make several copies of the sheet music. Tape together sheets to avoid page-turns.
-Sit with music, sing piece to self, and make notes with pencil.
-Listening to the recording is imperative for an auditory learner like someone with NLD. It is not cheating, no matter what someone might say. It’s an appropriate accommodation.
-Look into activities like choir, chamber music, and individual lessons. Larger ensembles may be more difficult because of requirement that section be totally synchronized, but it may be possible to work something out.
-Use mental practice and pantomime string bowings. Realize bowings will not always be exact and permit retakes. Remember bow technique is more important than always being in correct bow direction. Practice in front of mirror in short sessions.
-Give yourself a break on not having perfect rhythm; it’s probably not a realistic expectation for people with visual-spatial struggles.
-Enjoy studying music; if it’s not fun, find another instructional setting. It needs to be a positive experience.
-Don’t get bogged down in musical-competition issues. Always find situations where people play because they enjoy it.
-Consider doing research on learning disabilities and musical studies.
-If it doesn’t interfere with your concentration, it might be nice to listen to classical music while doing homework.
-Possibly attend classical concerts; many college recitals are free.
-Don’t worry if you reach a certain level and find it difficult to move past that level. Everyone learns music in his/her own way.
-Piano may not work so well due to the different things going on with each hand; try playing with one hand only if this is the case.
-Highlight each line of music in alternating colors (or each bar).
-Parents and teachers: know that kids with NLD often don’t give up because of not trying; sometimes musical techniques are too much at once, and an overwhelmed kid may not have enough time to practice through them. Don’t worry if kid with NLD needs to study easier songs to get ready for the more difficult ones. Don’t rush through things.
I studied music the competitive way. It was like my sport. I have mixed feelings about this. I hope my comments help some kids with NLD have fun studying music; at its best, it is medicine for the mind. I hope to see some research on NLD and music pedagogy, and to write more about it sometime soon.