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Michelle Loewenstein
4 minute read
16 Aug 2013
5:00 am

Beating ADHD a beat at a time

Michelle Loewenstein

Imagine knowing that you were different to all the other kids. No matter how hard you tried, you struggled to be just like everyone else, and mom and dad made you take medicine even though you didn't feel sick.

This is the reality facing many children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a psychiatric disorder that causes sufferers to act impulsively and in a way that is sometimes not considered to be age appropriate. Kids with ADHD have trouble concentrating and keeping still. They understand the norms that they are expected to conform to, but struggle to behave in the correct way.

Much has been written about the pros and cons of medicating children with ADHD, with many believing that doctors are too quick to prescribe meds to kids who are thought to be a bit too naughty. Diet also plays a role in helping kids with the disorder. However, parents are finding new ways to help their little ones and themselves cope with ADHD.

“I noticed the positive effects of drumming after I received feedback from parents who reported a significant change in their child’s attention span and concentration levels after lessons,” says Michael Barber of Live 2 Drum, who has been teaching for 22 years.

“Some parents had informed me that their children had ADHD before their lessons, others knew that their children had concentration difficulty but chose not to tell me they were in denial and chose to believe that their child just wasn’t interested in their schoolwork. In either case, the positive results were remarkable.”

Barber believes that the reason for these positive effects is twofold.

“Firstly, drumming stimulates both sides of the brain and focuses on concentration. As the lessons gradually get more difficult, the child obviously has to concentrate more. Secondly, the child wants to learn as drumming is something that he chose to do out of his/her own free will. It’s not a compulsory activity, and therefore they put more effort into it,” he explains.

Picture: Greg Mulford

Picture: Greg Mulford


An interesting fact is that ADHD in adolescents often reveals itself in the form of symptoms like excessive finger drumming and restless legs. Playing the drums requires students to use their whole body, giving kids suffering from the disorder an outlet for their excess energy. It’s also not just children with ADHD who benefit from drumming it’s a great way to stay in shape. Most professional drummers have to stick to a strict fitness regime in order to keep up with the daily demands of their jobs. However, this is not without its rewards.

“I understand that to be able to perform my best I have to be in the best shape possible, as drumming is extremely physical. I am 44 years old and people are all absolutely shocked when they hear this, as they believe I’m 27! I believe that teaching keeps me young,” Barber says.

Getting any child to practice for their lessons is a challenge, so a child with ADHD would obviously be an uphill battle for parents. According to Barber, the key is to keep kids to a strict schedule where they spend at least 15 minutes a day on their drumming.

“We then tailor lessons by starting with really simple exercises to build confidence, and then increasing the level of difficulty to constantly challenge the student. Another important way to cater for ADHD students is with dedicated individual attention during a one-on-one lesson, which is lacking in the school environment,” he says.

As with anything that makes a child feel different to his peers, ADHD can lower a child’s confidence level. Add to this having grown-ups who perhaps don’t understand the disorder reprimanding them for their behaviour, and you could end up with a child who has severe self-esteem issues.

“Because accomplishments in drumming can be seen immediately an exercise is either right or wrong with no grey areas the student can see significant improvement every single minute they spend behind the drums. This boosts their confidence immensely,” says Barber.

“Drumming is an extremely physical activity which improves coordination. It provides a positive outlet for creativity and solid basis for expression. And let’s not forget the benefit of being the coolest kid in school. There’s nothing cooler than a drummer!”

Barber prefers that his students are not medicated before they come for their lessons.

“I’d much rather see them with a clean slate and then change things if need be. Medication dulls a person’s mental state and impedes co-ordination. This is true of any form of chemical, whether it’s medication or alcohol,” Barber says.

“Something as primal as just being allowed to make a noise and express oneself has always been impossible in today’s society, as children are always told to be seen, not heard. To witness how a student’s face lights up regardless of their age when I inform them they are allowed to make a noise, is something that will always be absolutely priceless.”