Teaching Music to Students with Special Needs

There is much we can learn about teaching children with disabilities from personal research, experience and networking.  Sometimes the things that are unknown can be the most beautiful and life-changing to us as teachers. We at LessonsWorldwide are always learning and growing in this area, and want to pass on our thoughts and experiences. Remember to embrace all that you can to be the best tutor to any child who you're teaching. Below  are a few  tips we can share, many of which can transfer over to any student.

Be encouraging.  Be motivating.  Support students to their very core!

1)  Do your homework and ask questions.  Read up on your student’s special need.  The more you understand where your student is coming from, the better you will be able to meet them where they are at and then lead them forward.  Ask the parents questions like “What kind of learner is your child?” (visual or auditory).  Find out what might be a distraction for them. For example, if the light on your piano is too bright, that could be bothersome to them.  Be an educated educator.


2)  Have back up plans. There is no cookie-cutter approach to the ‘right’ way to teach.  What works for one student might not work for another.  And, on some days, what worked last week might not be what keeps their attention today.  Always have a plan B in your lesson for them, as well as a few ‘sure-fire’ approaches that you know will work for them no matter what.


3)  Give positive reinforcement! Everyone responds better with encouragement as their fuel.  Don’t underestimate the power of “Good job!” and “That was beautiful!”  Treat every song as a performance, giving them a huge applause, no matter how simple the song.  Email the parents e-stickers  at the end of the lesson for their child to see.


4)  Think outside the box. You might want to consider trying more than one teaching approach during the lesson. Start with your instrument, and then encourage your student to draw a staff, play a note game or pull out crayons and let them color a quarter note.  Stay animated and let your voice inflections help keep their attention.  The power of a whisper can be amazing and we've found that students tune in more when you sing instructions to them and let them sing back.  Visual aids, like flashcards and pictures, are also wonderful for lessons.  Be open to trying new things!


5)  Keep your language simple. Speak in concrete terms and say what you mean.  Avoid abstract language. This will help get your ideas across much more smoothly.


6)  Be patient.  This is the sign of a good teacher!  Remind students, ‘We’re in no hurry or running any race.  We’ll get it when we get it.”


7) Support them! See all my students first as a person, then as a student.  When they sense sincere support from you, they will receive your instruction better.



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