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Tony is on the Autism Spectrum and has multiple disabilities.He began playing violin when he was five years old.


He has performed in recitals and played solo pieces for school events, friends and relatives. He even played at a wedding as the bride walked down the aisle.

His ability to play violin allows him to diversify his interests, gain self-confidence, exhibit socially appropriate behaviors and receive recognition for mastering a unique skill. 

Students with disabilities benefit from music education.

Tony is special because he knows how to play the violin. 

Use (of playing an instrument) with autism and language disorder therapy

The acoustic sounds that musicians skillfully process are the very same ones that children with autism and dyslexia have difficulty translating.

Since Kraus' research has shown that musical training can change the auditory system and enhance verbal skills, it would not be a stretch to say that children with language processing disorders and impaired emotional perception could benefit from playing an instrument.

"There are parts of the brain that are specialized for music and other parts that are specialized for speech, but the brainstem is a common pathway for both signals. Since our work indicates a common pathway for music, language and emotional sounds, training in music could conceivably help children with language disorders," Kraus said.

There has not been much study on the effects of listening to music, but learning to play an instrument has been shown to have benefits. Rather than simply possessing a natural talent for music, it is really practicing that makes the difference. Musical training not only teaches you to play an instrument, it refines how your brain processes sound.

"Engaging in high-level cognitive processes like music enhances your sensory system," said Kraus. "We hope to see increased resources for music education in schools."

--  Gwendolyn Morgan, NSF (703) 292-7725

Music education, especially learning to play an instrument provides an opportunity for students with special needs to access the benefits available to neurotypical students. Studying music can fortify the foundation necessary to master daily living and academic skills, to move closer to reaching his/her potential, to enjoy life to the fullest and to be an active participant in the community.  Playing an instrument gives him/her the chance to improve social emotional learning, increase feelings of self-worth, gain self-confidence, cultivate a sense of responsibility, develop self-discipline and facilitate academic achievement in order to meet life goals.


Special needs tips
spec needs tips

A successful practice​ is one in which the student is not asking to end the session and has met his pre-determined, appropriate practice goals (Appropriate goals are attainable with some effort.)

Recognize student's strengths and teach the student to compensate for weaknesses. 

 Make learning to play an instrument a positive experience. 

Progress and success are measured based on the Individual Student. 


​Positive practice experiences motivate the student to practice. Try these practice tips and  games adapted and modified to meet the needs of your student. 


Bad Days

We all have our bad days. There Take control and make practice on these days as easy as taking the instrument out of the case, polishing and putting it back, naming the parts of the instrument and/or practicing a piece s/he has mastered and enjoys.


ALWAYS Keep Your Word 

Empowering your student is a wonderful way to encourage a love of music. Remember, s/he is not truly empowered if you don’t follow through on promises. (Consider everything you say a promise.) Delaying or not following through erodes trust and makes practicing a negative experience.

Practice can include activities without the instrument.

Call these activities games, for example practicing with flashcards is Flashcard Fun, Name That Note and clapping out (stomping out) rhythms is Rhythm Time.) 

You may find the articles below helpful and informative. search for "play an instrument" and "students with disabilities" to find more sites. 

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