Working with Special Needs
A degree in music education requires a couple of classes working with accommodations and what will most benefit students to fit their needs. As fortunate as I am that I had these classes, it barely touches the skillset needed to work with students with special needs. I began teaching private lessons to students with special needs through Northwest Special Recreation Association (NWSRA) 12 years ago. My students there ranged from being on the autism spectrum to Downs Syndrome to blindness. Some students are high functioning (and can even drive!), while others are non-verbal. I've worked with over 50 students through NWSRA and currently about 20% of my studio includes students with special needs.
Photo courtesy of Daily Herald.
Some of the accommodations that I make include working with students at a pace that they understand, explaining the same thing in a multitude of different ways, and honing in on finger dexterity/independence and fine motor skills, all while playing pieces that are FUN. For guitar, I modify fingerings for chords to the correct challenge for the student (maybe 3 strings instead of all 6, or alternative fingerings). For both guitar and piano, I use a lot of games, color coding, worksheets, label finger numbers with markers, and use A LOT of singing. If a student can sing it, s/he can play it!