August 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm #11522
I’m looking for some advice on how to help students with sensory processing issues that go along with autism. Two have extreme anxiety about music; the oldest struggles with just walking in my classroom. The youngest had a complete breakdown (screaming, throwing himself on the floor) when I attempted to give him an egg shaker. I and the PE teacher have been told that we may not be able tot use music at all when they are in class, and that means is an entire class would be different than the rest of those grade level classes.
I need advice on what accommodations can be made for these students as well as just how much (legally) I can be told to change a curriculum to accommodate for students with an IEP that is going to affect students who are able to handle a “regular” elementary curriculum.
Can any of you offer me some advice on research, books, checklists, questions I should ask at the meeting…I am just seeking some help/recommendations on what I can do to prepare. I DO have Alice Hammel’s newer book, and perhaps I missed something you can point me to. Thank you so much!August 28, 2012 at 8:47 am #11540
You can try to use an old set of headphones to mute the sound. What we did at my school is to cut the cord to allow better movement and less distractions. Do you get an EA with this student. If they can not handle the music in a music classroom, to me they need music privately with you or to be allowed to skip music all together. If you are not allowed to play music in the music classroom, to me, that defeats the purpose of the class. The other students also have rights.
I would also try contacting ALice Hammer and other teachers that deal with special education in music. You might also look up Alice Ann Darrow at Florida
State Univ. and Mary S Ademek at Univ. of Iowa. These people might be able to help you.September 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm #11964
An online article that might be helpful:
Success with Autism: Predicatability — http://18.104.22.168/v/general_music/success-with-autism-predictability/
General Music Today has a regular column on special needs students: http://musiced.nafme.org/resources/periodicals/general-music-today/
There’s also a Special Research Interest Group on Children with Exceptionalities: https://sites.google.com/site/exceptionalitiessrig/
NAfME StaffSeptember 16, 2012 at 8:50 pm #12313
I see that you posted your question a few weeks ago, and I hope you’re having more success with these students, or have found ways to accommodate them. I work at a school for students with special needs, and have encountered students like yours. Of course you shouldn’t be expected to change your entire curriculum, but there may be ways to accommodate their needs. Your occupational and physical therapists may have sound-reducing headphones that you could borrow; if not, Jason’s idea is a great one. Also, if there is time in your schedule, I would recommend you meeting with these students at a separate time, and slowly sensitize them to the sounds of music class. You could also try seating them far away from the sound source, and using a low volume. An auditory sensitivity does not mean children don’t like music – it means that auditory input is actually painful!
Do they all have auditory processing disorders, or is the anxiety due to a change in schedule, routine, etc? No two students on the autistic spectrum are alike; it would help if you knew exactly what issues each child is dealing with. You should be able to get information from their special ed teacher, case manager, physical/occupational therapists, as well as from the IEP’s. Don’t be afraid to contact the parents, and voice your concerns (gently) that their child is having difficulty being comfortable in music class, and ask if they have any suggestions or advice. They may even ask that their child not participate in music, if they know how unhappy their child is. Let me know how you’re doing!September 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm #12362
I agree with butlerm269 that it might be a good idea to have the students come down separately from the class if possible–not necessarily to have them for their own separate period (although that would be a good idea), but just maybe have their aide bring them down for a few minutes by themselves, maybe first thing in the morning on the day that they have music, so they can get used to the music room in an environment that isn’t so stressful (if it’s just them and not 20 other kids, it might help them feel a little more relaxed). Also, I don’t know what their reading skills are like, what grade they are in, or how high-functioning they are, but we have one boy with an auditory sensitivity and also some anxiety with transitions between places and activities, and his aide carries a dry erase board with her. She writes him short notes throughout the day about what he is going to be doing next and reminders about what to expect, and how to behave appropriately. For example, at an assembly the other day, her note said “We are going to an assembly. I will sit on my bottom facing forward and will be a good listener. There may be loud talking or loud music. If I don’t like this, I will tell Mrs. S.” There is another little script for fire drills, etc. so that he remembers that the bell will be loud, that we are practicing going outside, keeping our voices quiet, and staying in a line, and that after the drill we will be coming back inside–and he can ask the aide for a squeeze (squeeze his hand) if he needs one. That way, he knows ahead of time what to expect, so it’s not so jarring when it does happen… and he can learn an appropriate way to react to it (tell his aide so she can take him out for a few minutes, rather than screaming or crying and lying down on the floor). If the student can’t read, maybe the teacher/aide or you could write up a short script of a few sentences about what to expect before music class and have the aide read it to them just before coming into the classroom. Also, we have another student who is working on appropriate ways to react to things that make him anxious–his aide has a little board with a check-off off appropriate behaviors (listening respectfully, being safe, cooperating with others, etc.) and when his behavior is on target she has a little token that is velcroed into that box and she shows this to him as a visual reminder so he knows he’s doing the right thing. (The tokens are earned towards rewards.) I know that the students in your situation have a sensitivity to sound, but you note that there seems to be a lot of anxiety even before any music is happening…. so maybe if they have a visual reminder of “this is what will happen, and this is what you should do” it might be helpful.
Also, maybe if the students could be placed on the end of a row so that they are not right in the middle of all the sound with other kids singing or playing instruments, that might be better.
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