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Winter 2020: Questions and Answers

Do you know of piano events or festivals in which students with special needs can participate?

Diversity and inclusion are becoming more important in our daily lives and I congratulate everyone in our profession for their courage and dedication in making music study available for all students.

The Royal Conservatory of Music examination process welcomes students who are special learners. Registered teachers are encouraged to call RCM Candidate Services
for more information 1.866.716.2223 prior to registering a student, and may find a request form for students with special needs at the following link: https://rcmusic-kentico-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com/rcm/media/main/documents/examinations/forms%20and%20services/specialneedsrequest2019.pdf.

Michigan State University offers the "Celebrating the Spectrum" festival each summer. The festival is designed to provide students who are on the autism spectrum and may be thinking of pursuing post-secondary education in music (or who may wish to explore a college-level music study experience) a week-long immersion in solo and ensemble performance, group performance classes, college-style lecture classes, and the chance to spend time on campus experiencing the dining halls, etc. More information is available at: http://www.music.msu.edu/spectrum.

If the sponsors or organizers of local and state events do not already have guidelines on entering students who are special learners, contact the sponsors or organization team prior to enrolling/registering a student. Be sure to precisely request specific accommodations for a student with special needs. In some cases, a teacher may be making the first request for accommodations that an organization has received. If it becomes clear that a student is achieving readiness for an event, it would be helpful for teachers and parents to work with the organization well in advance of registration to create accommodations. We are indeed fortunate to work in a profession with so many dedicated colleagues who will be happy to make opportunities available to all students.

And it never hurts to contact local and state organizations and gently and persistently advocate for inclusion guidelines to be added to their event structures.

In your webinar and at the NCKP teaching demo last summer, you used a very calm, soft voice when working with an autistic student. I am usually quite animated, with lots of vocal inflection when I teach. Can you explain why you use your voice differently with special learners?

Many of my students who are special learners are non-verbal, or are minimally verbal. Some of them may have a limited vocabulary and understanding of word meaning. Others suffer from hypersensitivity to sound or light, or may have difficulty with changes in environment. Others have difficulty with auditory processing, or in coordinating fine motor skills. With a student who needs extra time to process their learning, and who may not be able to understand all of the words we use, tone of voice becomes key to opening the learning process. How something is said may be crucial to the student's absorption of material. I most often use a calm, quiet, and positive tone of voice when I speak to my students. The tone reaches them before the vocabulary is processed. By using a calm, quiet, and positive tone of voice, I can avoid many behavioral problems, and a calm quiet environment is created allowing the student to relax and feel safe trying new things. It is my students who have taught me that mindfulness of vocal tone at all times is crucial to opening the doorway to their success in the lesson.

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Winter 2020: Life in Music
Teaching to Video—A New Pedagogical Experience


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