Teaching Students with Special Needs

Hi guys,

Today we are going to discuss teaching students with special needs.

It is essential that students with special needs are included in all the classroom activities the other students enjoy, whether it is in school or music lessons outside school. It has been consistently found that if people, whether they are children, teenagers or adults, are left without proper interaction and involvement in the class or lesson being taught, their learning and social skills will dramatically suffer, no matter what subject, discipline, sport or activity they are studying or being taught.

Students with special needs are delighted to take part in a concert or performance, even if they are only playing very simple instrumental parts. It is truly heart-warming to observe the proud parents of a student with special needs as they look with pride on their son or daughter as they perform with their school orchestra. People that have trouble with their motor skills can also benefit immensely from learning an instrument and learning to read music.

Even to just be on stage as part of a band or orchestra with their friends is always an immensely joyful experience, not only for the student, their friends and their classmates but for the teacher him or herself as well.

In this way, one approach that I have always found very beneficial is to give a students with special needs an easier or less complex part to play in a group, orchestra or ensemble. Students with special needs can take part and they very often can improve and then move onto another instrument. I have seen students with special needs truly come to life and incredibly excited to play a percussion instrument. Simple rhythms on a clave, a shaker, guiro, or cymbals that, while simple to another student, can be a very encouraging experience for students with special needs to play.


Playing in an ensemble can truly generate a great feeling of joyful interaction as the student with special needs can take part in the fun of their friends and classmates as they perform a piece of music, which they could struggle with otherwise.

I think that the most important aspect of teaching students with special needs is to ensure that all those learning will be successful in some way in their musical studies and playing. It can be incredibly frustrating for even the most gifted student if they are studying and learning a composition that is quite simply too difficult for them to master at their stage of learning and development.

The playing and skills of a student with special needs can blossom into a great sense of fun if they are assigned a part in the work being practiced and performed by the band or orchestra that they can master. Music is an art of collaboration and such collaboration will be very exciting to a students with special needs.

It can be a staggeringly exciting experience to see your student playing music with others, no matter how simple we may perceive the part to be and to witness their happiness of being involved.

Students with special needs very often have underdeveloped social skills and this can be a huge roadblock to their learning and educational lives. As I said earlier, it is pretty obvious that a lack of social interaction and a lack of the right type of beneficial social interaction can be detrimental to the social skills of a student, no matter what age they are.

If a pupil with special needs is involved in a classroom setting it can very often augment their social skills as they are immersed in the social hub that is the typical modern classroom.

Subjects like maths, modern languages like French and science, once they are taught in a classroom setting, are generally topics that are studied at home or the library in solitary conditions. As I said earlier, music is a collaborative art. And, as I have also said many times in these blogs, there are very few experiences in life as thrilling and as enjoyable as in playing music with others, no matter what size the ensemble. Any students with special needs that I have seen in these groups get a tremendous amount of fun and satisfaction to play and to take part musically with others. This kind of experience can be immensely beneficial for students with special needs – indeed for any person.

Obviously, everyone benefits from learning and studying subjects no matter what age they are. I feel that this is especially true in the experience of learning music. With the right encouragement, the exciting involvement, the improvement of motor and social skills, and the sheer joy of performance can help students with special needs incredibly and can really improve the quality of their lives.

I hope you enjoy reading my blogs. If there is anything you would like to see discussed please email info@musicavenue.ie





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