written by Kristen Van Dyke, MT-BC
Many parents of children with special needs must advocate regularly for their children to be included and involved in extracurricular activities or even an inclusive classroom environment. Thankfully, over time, more organizations have opened their doors and provided the right staff members or training required to work with children with special needs. There are many schools of music, dance, sports organizations, drama programs, and more that now offer inclusive extracurricular opportunities. However, most parents of children with special needs experience both a sense of gratitude and fear when it comes to including their children in these activities. Will the other kids make fun of them? Will my child understand what to do? Will they be nervous to get up on stage?
Here at Metro Music Makers, we offer adaptive music lessons for children with special needs to help them successfully learn a music instrument in a way that uses their unique strengths and gifts. Like most music instruction programs, there are performance opportunities throughout the year. These recitals are 100% inclusive and include performances by students of all ages and ability levels, and those who are learning a variety of instruments. There are many benefits of having an inclusive recital atmosphere.
Social Interaction and Social Behavior
A child with special needs who performs in a mainstream performance will not only have the opportunity to interact with other students performing, but will also get to practice being a good audience member. They will experience walking on stage, performing a piece, bowing, and accepting applause. They will also sit in the audience, and practice being good listeners and applauding for others.
Having a Goal
Sometimes, children with special needs are not held to the highest standard that they could be. Adults may not be exactly sure what they are capable of and underestimate their abilities. I love this quote: “Higher expectations ultimately lead children with disabilities to achieve more, gain confidence and independence, and develop a stronger sense of self” (Heninger & Gupta, 2014). I have had parents doubt that their child is capable of getting up on a stage and performing a piece of music, but then are joyfully surprised when the performance goes off without a hitch. Also, if something does happen in the performance, there is always going to be a supportive audience there no matter what.
Sense of Normalcy
Often at school, children with special needs are known for being in “that classroom” or needing extra help or riding a different bus. A music recital brings families together that usually do not interact with one another. There are no preconceived notions and no judgements. The students are all equals as they wait excitedly to get up on the stage. The more interactions and experiences typically developing children have with children with disabilities, the more accepting they are going to be.
If you would like more information about adaptive lessons or music therapy services, please contact us at 678-637-7293 or email our Director of Music Therapy, Sara Longwell directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.