Students with special needs

Home Forums Teaching the Harp Students with special needs

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
  • #88281

    I am so excited to be teaching at a music school in Saint Paul now!
    They have filled my studio with about 40% students with special needs
    (some piano/harp). I have some background in this, but would very much
    value connecting with other teachers who work with such students to
    share resources and experiential wisdom. 🙂 These are some of the
    issues I work with:

    Mental Retardation

    Visual impairment

    Cerebral Palsy


    Brain tumor survivors

    I plan to use Suzuki method for the visually impaired, but have been
    introduced to Braille music notation. I have heard this is quite
    complex and tedius, but am still exploring its value. The issue of
    mental retardation needs more exploring. I have been observing the
    student and am formulating some ideas, but would value input from
    others as well. I love the diversity of teaching a “gifted” student one
    lesson and then switching gears to someone with a special need –
    sometimes working with someone who has both. This makes me especially
    happy and interested in my work, but it is indeed a challenge that
    requires a great deal of empathy. 🙂


    With arthritis, I might suggest dry heat before lessons, and arnica gel after to ease aching.

    Evangeline Williams

    How exciting!


    Goodl luck – it is so rewarding to work with special needs.


    Quite some time ago, I had a student with a learning disability. She learned beautiful technique, good rhythm, and could play each hand separately perfectly, but she could not play two lines at once. We tried all sorts of approaches for about two years, I used various excellent books on pedagogy, but finally she gave up. I hope she tried a single-line instrument afterwards, because she was musical. I hope you have a wonderful time in this endeavour. You will probably find that each student will be able to play only certain types of repertoire, depending on their particular abilities.


    Calista, thank you for your thoughtful post. I wished we lived nearby
    to share notes. 🙂 I had a very interesting lesson with a student with
    mental retardation. The caregiver attended and observed. The caregiver
    is an educator with a
    deep understanding of this student. She advised me to work directly
    with the sound with this student. Rather than attaching symbols and
    labels to musical ideas, to just simply improvise with her and let her
    respond to the patterns I create – and I respond to hers. This is a very interesting approach.
    The student can give her very best attention to the sounds when we play
    together. She creates music that contains some patterns and some
    randomness. She creates rhythmic/melodic motives, but begins the piece
    at a different spot on the keyboard each time. I play along on the harp
    imitating her motives. We also tell stories with music exploring the
    opposites of high/low, loud/soft, fast/slow, since that is the first
    step in musical development in children. It will be interesting to see how this approach evolves over time.


    Have you looked into Christine Cotruvo’s work with Blind harp students?



    I’m teaching an 11 year old with cerebral palsy. How would you go about teaching the hand position as he can only bring his fingers in so much and I worry that it might be more tense that way. He also has learning difficulties so at the moment everything is taught by ear.


    M x

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.