Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I sold my piano, and maybe a piece of my soul.

My piano is officially sold. After months of having it listed I finally accepted that I would have to let it go for a reasonable price. It sold the day I lowered the price.

The day the movers came I sat down and muddled my way through some favorite pieces, acknowledging that I can't even play the piece that got me accepted to the University of Utah Piano Performance program. Can't even play it to vaguely resemble what it's supposed to sound like.

I realized, or maybe accepted, that I will never play that well again. Sure, that's obvious, but in the back of my mind I would always think, maybe when the kids are grown I will take lessons again and build up my dexterity and practice scales and Hannon for hours a day again and become better than I ever was. Possibly there's something about selling your first and last baby grand piano that makes you realize those days are never coming back.

When I was studying music, I always hesitated to tell people that was my major, out of fear they would ask me play and upon hearing me wonder how I had ever gotten in. Now when people find out I play, just that I play, a hot flash of embarrassment practically knocks me over when they say, "oh, play something," because I think they will be disappointed. Truly, the one who is disappointed is me.

I just finished reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, who forced her daughters to practice piano hours a day because as she puts it "Nothing is fun, until you're good at it." I actually found myself wishing I had a tiger mother who had forced me to practice. I played for hours when I was kid because I loved the sound of the piano. It forced me not to worry about anything else as I focused on getting the notes right. Even though I am competitive, I didn't have the drive, or a parent driving me to play for excellence, I always played to escape whatever was bothering me at the time. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I should have known it wouldn't have led me to greater improvement.

I did swim team for the same reason. I loved to swim. But somehow it never bothered me that I was the slowest person on our team. I always did what the coaches asked, and swam as fast as I could, but I knew I would never be great at it, and I was okay with that. So it doesn't make sense that it bothers me so much knowing I always played for enjoyment, but wasn't that great at it. I think it's the knowing that if I had continued to practice I would always get better, there was no limit to improvement, but with swimming, I could only go as fast as my arms would move, no matter how hard I pushed, there was a limit to what I could do in a pool.

As I get older, I think I've learned to cast off all inflated ideas about myself. I have to be enough for me, not for any other person, and if I'm happy with where I'm at, nobody can tell me otherwise. My focus is no longer on practicing piano, or swimming, or anything else I did when I was young, well except maybe writing, or I wouldn't be blogging today. And I'm happy about that.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

When your child has Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

I was outnumbered five to one, at the most recent parent teacher conference last week. I've done a few posts about Hunter and his progress in school, mentioning, maybe it's dyslexia, maybe it's ADD, etc and now he's been tested. Hunter has Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). When I first heard the name I had no idea what it was.

They explained that Hunter has a great vocabulary, and speaks in long sentences and has a very good understanding of language. When long instructions or a story was spoken to him, he was able to understand the general theme and answer questions about the story. When a single sentence was read, or short directions were given, he was unable to answer the questions. Hunter was using his language skills by listening to words in context to understand, but was unable to hear enough in short directions to follow.

I came home and wanted to know more so I went to Wikipedia which said:

"Individuals with APD usually have normal structure and function of the outer, middle and inner ear (peripheral hearing). However, they cannot process the information they hear in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech. It is thought that these difficulties arise from dysfunction in the central nervous system (i.e., brain). APD has been referred to as dyslexia for the ears."

This explains so much about Hunter, especially how he combines sounds backwards, yet is able to read letters in order. And short term memory! Since he has trouble distinguishing sounds, it makes sense why it took him so long to learn all the letter sounds, because he had trouble differentiating sounds. The same letter would sound different to him every time he heard it, so it took longer for him to recognize them. The good news is Hunter doesn't have ADD. I'm really grateful about that because it would really complicated things if he had ADD in addition to APD. So this last week we've been making some changes.
  1. Eye Contact. When Hunter needs to memorize, i.e. sight words or spelling, we repeat them over and over again, first looking at the word on the wall, then face to face with eye contact. Sometimes it takes a few reminders for him to get focused on my face, but once he does it had made all the difference. 
  2. Visual aids. He's still really young and developing his skills. So far he's relied on his language skills, we need to work on strengthening his visual learning to compensate for his hearing disability.
  3. Routine. I've made a chart for our morning and evening routines. Having the chart for our routine has alleviated a lot of stress off both of us. Now he knows what needs to be done with a lot less nagging from me. The routine also helps reduce confusion and chaos in his day when he knows exactly what needs to be done and when.
  4. Rewards. I used to waste so much time and energy trying to keep this kid in time out, it just didn't work for him. Then a friend told me about her marbles. Now we have a marble jar, and he can earn them for a chore, daily tasks like getting ready, studying, and listening and following directions. Then he can redeem his marbles for different prizes. For example, 1 marble will buy a stick of gum, 3 marbles will buy 20 minutes of game time on the computer, 5 marbles and he can pick out a toy from mom's dollar store box. 
  5. Repetition. I feel like now that I understand what his struggles are, I'm more understanding and less frustrated. I expect to have to explain things to him more than once and in different ways, and once we find something that clicks for him, repeat, repeat, repeat.
  6. Kinesthetic Learning. Hunters strongest form of absorbing information is hands on learning. He learns new words and sounds more quickly by writing them out, over and over again. When he learns a new sight word, I will have him fill a page with that word several days in a row for him to memorize.
I'm no expert on APD, I googled a lot, and made this list based on things I thought would help Hunter. Every kid is different, these are just things that have worked for us. In case you found this helpful, click here for a copy of the charts I made. I laminated them and keep a dry erase marker next to it so Hunter can check things off as he goes.