We had our final staff meeting of the school year earlier this week, which included a presentation from a couple of people from Nordoff Robbins, the music therapy charity.
This was a very useful session, with lots of food for thought on how to make our music lessons more inclusive for pupils with special needs. In my own teaching career I have encountered children with dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHT, Downs syndrome, autistism and Aspergers conditions, and physical, or hearing, or mobility issues. Sometimes I have known about this before the first lesson; other times I have found out literally “the hard way” – hard for pupil, hard for me, and certainly hard for creating a good start in developing our relationship in future lessons.
I vividly remember my very first ever day as a class music teacher, over ten years ago. It would have been so nice to have been told about the year 6 lad with only one arm before I had planned the lesson involving lots of clapping and body percussion activities, and definitely before I took issue with the way he wasn’t wearing his sweatshirt properly. Good grief! This happened in the 21st Century, not in “olden days”. I still can’t believe that no-one in the school thought it necessary to mention this rather crucial fact.
“There is always a reason for a child’s behaviour”. It is well worth taking a moment’s pause and reflecting on that statement as you try and cope with managing some of the more “challenging” children you come across. Before you decide upon your response, it is well worth trying to talk things through with the child, the class teacher, or the parents.
I’m not trying to be a music therapist in my class music lessons, or in the one-to-one piano lessons. I don’t have the experience or the training. But I hope that the music lessons are a place where every child can have space to develop their communication skills and social skills, and maybe ease their way through the complexities of the rest of their day.