Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say
Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say…
By Scott Price
How many of us do that in our everyday lives? Think about it…
Teaching students with special needs often requires letting go of the assumptions we bring to everyday communication. Many of these gifted and deserving students may have disabilities that require different modes of communication during the learning process. Students with autism may not be able to observe or reciprocate social behaviors, social communication, or be able to make associations in imaginative thought common to the typical teaching situation. Students with other disabilities may have developmental gaps between their chronological age and the level of their cognitive and/or emotional development. Students with visual impairments may not be able to see (or see clearly) visual models, and students with hearing impairments may not be able to absorb multiple sound sources simultaneously during their instruction. Some students may not have an advanced vocabulary or understand word associations common to music lessons. In these learning situations, literal and concrete language may be key to the teacher/student dialogue. Explaining concepts to students in the most basic and literal language opens the door to the learning experience. And often, the teaching vocabulary may include elements that are not verbal such as voice tone, facial expressions, etc.
In one lesson with a student who was high-functioning on the autism spectrum, had a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and some coordination problems, and was confused about a note in a piece, the simple singing of a pitch was all it took to get him back on task during performance. A typical lesson where a student was confused about a note would have lots of stops and starts and remedial instruction – all things that would exacerbate this particular student’s disabilities. Simply pausing in the performance and singing the pitch he needed allowed him time to find which key he needed to play, and provided an auditory attention focus.
To hear Dr. Price speak further on instructing students with special needs, join him and other leading pedagogues at the 2012 Keyboard Summit. Visit here for more information and to register.
Dr. Scott Price currently serves as Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy, Head of the Piano Area, and Coordinator of Piano Pedagogy at the University of South Carolina School of Music. Dr. Price is creator and editor-in-chief of "Piano Pedagogy Forum," which The Music Teachers National Association named as the recipient of the 2008 Frances Clark Keyboard Pedagogy Award. Dr. Price is the founder of the Carolina LifeSong Intitiative, which is dedicated to providing piano lessons and music experiences for students with special needs, and in fostering best practices in teaching and teacher training.