Thursday, January 29, 2015

Great Resources on Music Lessons for Children with Disabilities

In the most recent copy of Southwestern Musician (February 2015), I was delighted to find an article on including children with disabilities in music classes. I've taught music to children with disabilities before, so I read the article looking for more insights, ideas, and resources. I'm happy to say I found quite a few great online resources for teaching music to children with disabilities.

The first website I checked out, Exceptionalities SRIG, has information on adaptive musical instruments for students with physical disabilities, helpful teaching apps, and other topics, including a list of documentaries and other movies on people with disabilities. The adaptive instruments were especially fascinating--check out the Amend Music Center! Many of the recommended films looked powerful and informative as well (they even noted which are available on Netflix).

The next website the article recommended, is UT Austin's Center for Music Learning disabilities information page. It had tons of information on specific disabilities, from autism to epilepsy. Each entry had a description of the disability and a list of strategies for teachers and parents. For example, many students with ADHD may benefit from having a posted schedule and an outlet for their physical activity, like playing their instrument standing up. I found this website immensely helpful. I have several students with disabilities including developmental delays and dyslexia, and this website included plenty of useful suggestions to teaching them effectively.

The last recommended resource was the Special Learners Channel of the National Association for Music Education. Their website had two slide shows, Divine Design by Greg Donnellan and Teaching Without Labels by Alice Hammel. Both had good strategies for teaching students with a variety of disabilities. I liked Teaching Without Labels in particular, because Hammel's approach provides a simple way for teachers to customize their teaching to every child, instead of treating them as though they're all the same. In addition to the slide shows, the Special Learners Channel had a great workbook for elementary music teachers by Scott Iseminger, which had a suggested lesson plan and plenty of simple, lovely songs for children to sing.

I'd highly recommend any of the above resources to any music teacher, including the original article from Southwestern Musician. Music belongs to everyone, no matter what their age or ability. I think it's imperative that classical musicians and music teachers reach out to all people, including students with disabilities, to share our love of music. If we want classical music to remain a vital creative force, then we need to encourage and support people with disabilities. Who knows, one of them might be the next Itzak Perlman.

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