Guest Author - Susan Hart
Private music lessons give children discipline, self confidence, and mental stimulation. This is true also of special needs children. While not all special needs children would be capable of playing a musical instrument, those who are capable could greatly benefit from private music instruction. Almost any child with the intellectual capacity can learn to play an instrument. Children with muscle or nervous system disorders and even the visual and hearing impaired can learn to play music. Private music lessons can serve as therapy for special needs children, as music training provides visual, auditory, sensory, and physical stimulation.
Although traditional music lessons may seem impossible for some special needs children, adaptations can be made for any situation. Students can be allowed to sit rather than stand, and music teachers can find creative methods to strengthen muscles and teach note reading. Another great option for special needs children is the Suzuki Method. This method allows children to start out learning by ear rather than reading music right away. This proves to be very beneficial so that the children can focus on the sound of the music rather than learning to read the music at the same time. As a Suzuki violin teacher myself, I have had great success teaching a visually impaired student who also has low muscle tone. Her balance and coordination have greatly improved. She has shown improvements in both gross motor and fine motor skills.
Children with ADD or ADHD can also greatly benefit from private music lessons. A good music teacher can provide great structure and discipline as well as focus and concentration. The one-on-one attention (or two-on-one in the ideal situation where the parent is present) gives the child the attention that he often lacks at school. A good music teacher is able, along with the parents, to determine an individual tailored plan for each student. Together, the parents and teacher can create goals and monitor the child's progress.
Music allows special needs children to be like mainstream children. It gives them confidence and motivation. Because some special needs children go to special schools and do not spend much time with mainstream children, private music lessons can give them the opportunity to have interaction with mainstream children. Many private music teachers offer monthly group lessons and quarterly or semi-annual recitals. In group lessons, children play music together as well as playing solos. In my own teaching experience, this has given the special needs students great confidence, as they learn that they are capable of playing the same music as their mainstream counterparts. Recitals give children the opportunity to perform by themselves for their families and friends. This brings great satisfaction to both the children and their parents, as they see the fruits of all their hard work.
Music teachers must be made aware of the childís exact circumstance. Like in any other social situation, some teachers may be apprehensive about teaching special needs children. Allowing the teacher to meet and get acquainted with the child may help ease the teacherís concern. Some teachers require students to observe other studentsí lessons before beginning lessons themselves. This could be especially helpful when the student has special needs. This period of observation will allow the parents to know what to expect and can also help the teacher to better get to know the special needs child and how to best meet his or her needs. It is important to remember that not every teacher is suitable for every child.
Music can be a rewarding and life-enriching experience for any child. Special needs children should not be deprived of such a matchless opportunity.
Making Music with Young Children with Special Needs: A Guide Book for Parents
Spotlight on Making Music with Special Learners: Selected Articles from State MEA Journals