Is My Special Needs Child Ready to Learn Music?
When it comes to special needs children, we all know that there is never a one-size-fits-all approach. Every child is different and will develop at his or her own pace. From my experience teaching special needs children between 3 to 16 years old, I have found that the students who make the most progress have these 4 traits in common:
1. Interest in Music
At any age, interest and motivation is an important factor of a child’s readiness and willingness to learn. If your child is often eager to interact with musical instruments, or enjoys singing and humming along to songs on TV or YouTube, it is a positive sign of his or her interest in music.
2. Progressing Well in Therapy
As a parent, you want the best for your child and may want to sign up for music lessons to speed up your child’s progress. However, I often advise parents that music lessons should be introduced only after their child has made significant progress in his therapy sessions, be it speech therapy, occupational therapy, or even ABA therapy. For instance, if your child still requires ABA therapy 3 times a week, focus on that till you are able to cut it down to once or twice a week, before adding on music lessons.
3. General Ability to Follow Instructions
For special needs children, they may need short breaks during lessons to stim, and that’s completely understandable. However, they should still be able to follow simple instructions like “stop”, or “come here”. A child who isn’t able to follow these instructions may not maximize his lesson time fully. In such instances, I will work with his parents and therapists to set behavioral goals and may use the same set of flashcards from his other therapy sessions so as to build a common understanding with the child.
4. Able to Recognize Alphabets
As our lessons progress, a child’s ability to read becomes more important, as he will be required to read the alphabets and strike the corresponding key on the piano. The child should also understand that reading goes from left to right, and a paragraph of text is read from top to bottom. This way, when presented with a song to play, the child will be able to read the notes correctly and then reproduce the song on his own.
Every Child is Different
I do believe that music is for everyone, but that does not mean we all have to start learning it at the same age. In my experience, a child who has met all the above milestones will have a better time learning music and will reap the most rewards. This, overall, makes for a happy child and happy parents! 🙂