Guiding EAs in Supporting Special
Needs Students in the Music
Bill Quinn – Developmental Music
Louis Riel School Division 2006-present
The Arts Can Make a Difference
Music Educators need to inform
Educational Assistants so they are
are aware of the power of music and
the profound effect it can have on
students in a music class for all
From the research…
“Music is communication…but more than not
it is, or functions as, nonverbal
communication. It is the wordless meaning of
music that provides its potency and value.
There would be no music and no need for it if
it were possible to communicate verbally that
which is easily communicated musically.”
-E. Thayer Gaston
Music stimulates all 5 senses and
involves the child at many levels. This
‘multimodal approach’ facilitates
many developmental skills.
-AMTA website
Some IEP Goals in Music Classes
Social Interaction
Listening skills
Staying on task
Expressing emotion
Communicating with peers, their teacher,
and their EA
Support growth in their IEP
Are just some of the areas in which students
can work toward goals identified in their IEP
Things EA’s do that music teachers
Whether a student is in a music class, guitar group, choir, in
the musical or in the band, Educational Assistants and their
positive participation and support is crucial for the
continued engagement of their student(s).
 Model desired behaviours by participating actively and
 Sit or move about the room as the activity directs in order to
assist all students.
 Allow students enough time to perform expected task
 Redirect inappropriate behaviour
 Correct students ”up close and personal”
 Tell the music teachers about any unusual problems before class
 Ask questions to clarify instructions
 Give suggestions on how materials may be adapted for
individual students
 Serve as communication link between teachers
 Outside of music class, make/adapt materials so all children
can fully participate
 Teach prompting/assisting skills to peers. Model the
interaction, then allow classmates to interact
What the Research tells us…
 The following goals found in many IEP’s can be worked
toward by students supported in performing arts classes:
 Motor – fine and gross motor skills (James, Weaver, Clemens & Plaster, 1985)
 Communication – from speech therapy to self-expression
(Galloway, 1974)
 Social-Emotional – to reinforce positive interaction and
acceptance of students with multiple challenges (Jellison, Brooks, &
Huck, 1984)
 Cognitive academic or pre-academic – helping students learn
to write and achieve correct mathematical responses (Fraser &
 Music itself – to support behavioural challenges through
sequential programming and to teach music skills (Steele, 1984)
Things that drive music teachers “out
of tune”
 Not being on task (reading the paper, eating etc.)
 Looking bored, disinterested, irritated, or sleepy
 Discuss a student in front of another student
 Shout instructions or corrections to students during class
 Use discipline that conflicts with that of the music teacher
 Use rude, condescending, or irritated voices when
addressing students
 Take it personally when your student does not perform
• Hughes et al, 2002
Developmental Music
Developmental Music is based on these five stages:
Responding to the musical environment with pleasure
Responding to the musical environment with success
Learning musical skills for successful group participation
Investing in group musical processes
Applying individual and group musical skills in new
(Peters, Music Therapy: An Introduction, 1987)
Successful Transitions
 Strategies to successfully bring your students to
and from music classes
 Poems
 Short Songs
 Boardmaker symbols/Lyrics
 Manipulatives/plush animals
 Books
K-8 Music Class
Advocacy for your student
Active positive participation
Positive, positive, positive
Reward all effort initially
Advocacy in the Music Class
How can you advocate for your student?
 Seating choice – close to teacher and close
to student leaders
 Choice of instruments
 Adapted instruments if available
 Photocopy enlarged scores
 Appliances
 Big Mac
Let’s try…
 STOP and START cards
 Boardmaker symbols for lyrics
 Instrument choice
 Face-to-face to encourage communication and
engagement by student
 Hand over hand only when necessary
Let’s Make Music!
 Twinkle, Twinkle
 The path to hand over hand
 Visual Contact
 Patience – yours and your Educational Assissant
Open tunings – music teacher can
teach Eas how to use a tuner
Coloured dots on neck of the guitar to
use with open tuning (changes)
Coloured dots on music – can add more
for increased difficulty
 Coloured dots on music.
 Enlarge scores
 Adaptations – mouthpiece, neck holders, instrument
holders (can the Shops teacher in your division help you
alter or mae supports?)
 Percussion
 you can hold the mallet or the instrument and move it
to the beat.
 Hand over hand if necessary
 Enlarge scores
 Dots on music
 Braille arrangements
 Sign Language
 Placing student next to high achieving students
 Tapping beat on shoulder/hand
 Refocusing on conductor
 Movement
Adaptations for Blind Students
Braille music
Karaoke type backtracks
Sensitivity to sound – placement of
where they sit- they may need
Adaptations for Deaf Students
Seat them near the front
There is music available in sign
It’s a Beautiful Day
High School
 Participation not just attendance
 Rehearsing outside arts classes
 Enhancing the experience of the Art Form
 Using technology to support learning
 Use of iPods, iPads, iPhones and YouTube for examples of
 Apps
Let’s Talk!!
1. What has worked well for you in
2. What are your concerns about
supporting your EAs in music classes?
Some Resources
 Clinically Adapted Instruments for the Multiply
Handicapped Clark and Chadwick MagnamusicBaton 1980
 Group Music Activities Ramey, M. Jessica Kingsley
Publishers 2011
 Pied Piper: Music Activities to Develop Basic Skills. Bean, J.
and Oldfield, A. Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2001
 Music Therapy: Another Path to Learning and
Communication for children on the Autism Spectrum.
King, B. Future Horizons Inc. 2004
Goodbye Song
[email protected]

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