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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Should I step in and talk to my DS teachers?


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My 10-year-old DS has a learning difference. Specifically, he has something called an auditory processing disorder. This means that if he is given verbal directions he has a hard time understanding exactly what is being asked of him. I am finding that this is coming into play during his ballet classes. When a teacher is trying to explain what they want him to do, instead of showing him, he doesn't always understand. Another element that also factors in are heavy foreign accents. I imagine this only makes it harder for him to comprehend. I understand that not all teachers demonstrate moves, but rather explain what they want the students to be doing with their bodies.


My question is, would it be appropriate for me to explain my sons learning difference to his ballet teachers? I am not sure if expecting his teachers to demonstrate themselves is reasonable? Perhaps it could relieve some frustration for both my son and the teachers. I haven't mentioned anything as of yet because I wonder if this is something that my DS just has to work through. What would you do?

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My son has ADHD, and I suspect he may have some processing issues as well (we're still in the midst of testing). I have had multiple conversations with both his ballet teacher and his gymnastics coach regarding his issues, and it has been positive for us. Our ballet teacher is very outspoken and opinionated and is the kind of person who calls it like she sees it, so she has approached me with some of her concerns after observing him in class. She didn't wait for me to bring it up. It has been very helpful. She recognizes that he has some special needs that require a different approach from her, and she is willing (and interested in) working with him. She can be a difficult personality, but I am oh so grateful that she is willing to work with DS. The teachers at your studio might not be receptive, but I'd say it's worth a try. I wouldn't start out by asking them to do something specific, but I would alert them to things that might be a problem for him and explain that he does better when he has a visual demonstration. I wouldn't mention the accent thing, because that is not something they can change, but just let them know that verbal instructions don't always process well for him, so that if he seems confused or like he is lagging behind in his comprehension, they will understand and hopefully give him extra help.

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Yes you should. As with at school, you are your child's advocate and are the bridge between your child and any type of teacher. My youngest daughter and niece are vision impaired due to their albinism. They are also both night blind which makes stage transitions difficult without assistance. While my daughter's vision is significantly better than her cousin, neither of the girls can see clear across the studio if the teacher is showing them something to do. For the girls, we just make sure every teacher they have knows they need to be close to them if they are showing something in small detail like how to hold your fingers, etc. My neice has an additional wrinkle in that she also has an auditory processing disorder like your son and is on the aspergers spectrum as well. She really does need to be shown and sometimes physically placed to know exactly what she needs to do. Imagine the frustration and misinterpretation by everyone if we didn't inform teachers upfront what the girls need to be successful in their pursuits.

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You absolutely should tell them and possibly point them to some of the videos that are out there which explain auditory processing disorder. We have a couple of students in the studio where I work that have this disorder. There are many small hints that can be given the teacher that will help with his dance education. While the severity of his disorder determines whether some of the hints will work or not. Keying the teachers in to what some of those clues are will certainly help him and then help them not get frustrated with him. One of our parents brought in a drawing she did of how the fibers run from the ears to the brain normally for information to travel and then how those might travel differently or the fibers be broken for someone with auditory processing to help explain how speaking directions (or reading them) may not work but showing them usually always does. Little hints like looking him in the eye when giving corrections as you call his name specifically, giving visual clues to the exercises as she speaks them, etc. will help but she can't institute them if she doesn't know.

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Thank you for your insight daisychain, dinkalina, and momof3darlings. I really appreciate your feedback. I am going to let his teachers know what is going on. I am hopeful that they will be receptive to the information and make a few accommodations to help him. :)

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Sometimes it can be as simple as changing where the child stands in the room. Our non-dk has/had auditory processing disorder. She worked with a tutor to help her learn pathways around it. We did explain to her teachers. By fifth grade, it was pretty much a non-issue. However, in eighth grade, it became noticeable again in geometry class. The teacher thought she was inattentive and part of a chatty group and had moved her to the back of the room. Our non-dk explained to us that she was having trouble hearing the teacher amid all the chatty buddies and that she was not chatting during class. We had a conference with the teacher and explained the auditory processing disorder and that non-dk was not trying to be inattentive or unfocused. But that she could not pick out all the instructions amid the noise. The teacher moved her to the front of the room and away from the chatterers. Problem solved.


I do remember her tutor explaining to me that kids with auditory processing disorder are not inattentive, unfocused, or undisciplined. It is just that their brains have a hard time blocking out the extra 'noise' around them when instructions or information is new and unfamiliar (among other things). For instance, at a mall, it might be hard for the child to grasp and carry out multi-task instructions due to the activity surrounding them and the ambient noise around them---even a child who normally has no trouble with those types of instructions.


So, in the ballet studio, it may be that the sensory 'cacaphony' of the surrounding classmates' physical movements, new movements/skills/exercises, plus the music, plus the teacher's corrections/instructions, along with his own physical movements are a bit more than his brain can sort out all at once. Perhaps a simple move in classroom position would help---closer to the teacher, at one end of the barre or the other, away from the door or window, away from the chattier kids in class, e.g.,---would help.

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I agree with the others, yes you should. It helps me as a teacher give the child what they need. After all that is why we teach.

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My DS has been asked to work with some of the younger boys in the studio. If the teacher does not want to domonstrate everything maybe another student could assist by working with you DS in class.

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