Success with Special Learners: Rehearsal Modification Tips

How do you meet the individual needs of each student with special needs while conducting a rehearsal? Here are some suggested approaches.

PEER MENTORSHIP
Pair a student with special needs with another member of the ensemble; it gives special learners the individual attention they need to be successful. Assigning a peer mentor also frees you as teacher from stopping rehearsal many times to answer questions or give aid to perhaps only one person.

Peer mentors benefit from working closely with classmates with special needs as they will use their natural leadership and nurturing abilities.

It’s important that all involved in peer mentoring are willing to participate. Ask the special learner if he/she would like to have extra help during rehearsal, and ask the potential peer mentor if he/she is willing to take on additional responsibilities.

Carefully consider who you pair. Some students may become frustrated working with those who may have a slower paced understanding; the right mentor should have patience with the student with special needs.

The student mentor should sit next to the student with special needs during rehearsal.

LOGISTICAL ADAPTATIONS
Adjust the length of time of participation for a student with special needs, if the student has difficulty concentrating and participating in full length rehearsals. Thirty minutes of active involvement is better than making a student conform to a time frame that doesn’t work for him or her.

Have a routine rehearsal structure in order to limit confusion. Following a routine will benefit students.

A REAL EXAMPLE
Next week, we’ll share the thoughts and experiences of one member who teaches high school choir. She shares how she adapts and works with the students in her ensemble who have special needs, and this member describes interactions between peer mentors and special learners.

JOURNAL articles
Music Educators Journal, March 2006, Special Focus on Children with Disabilities
Music Educators Journal, January 2001, Special Focus: Inclusion
Teaching Music, December 2004, Special Focus on Teaching Special Learners
Teaching Music, June 2008, Teaching Strategies for Performers with Special Needs (discusses IEP)
Teaching Music, April 2009, “Keys to Success with Autistic Children”
Teaching Music, August 2009, “ADHD in the Music Classroom”
General Music Today, January 2009, “Adapting for Students With Autism”
General Music Today, April 2009, “Barriers to Effective Inclusion and Strategies to Overcome Them”

–Sue Rarus, September 30, 2009. © National Association for Music Education