Lecture 4 Music 1Y (& tangents)

April 5, 2010

The lecture segment this week relating to special needs really got me thinking.

On one spectrum or another

James was kind enough to share multiple perspectives on ADHD: Ken Robinson’s doubt version; and James’s own wake-up to it through his own direct family experience. These together with the Asperger’s/autism spectrum experiences  that he has come across, and which are common in school in my experience.

In my own school there are a half a dozen or so students K-12 ‘diagnosed’ as being on the autism/Asperger’s spectrum (i.e. they have a label), with about another half dozen who I’ve come across who I’d reckon are on the spectrum somewhere (but who haven’t yet been given the label). So that’s about how many you’d expect for the population of the school.

All the people I’ve come across are fairly high functioning though, so they often display great insight into things you’re discussing, or they readily connect with musical work you’re doing and follow through on it etc. I have one ensemble of fairly young students which seems to have one or two ‘spectrum’ people in it: but they have great musical memories.

Sometimes too I reckon the ADHD diagnosed people are actually ASD, but have found a role for themselves in the school thorough ADHD.

Anyway enough of diagnoses: I think from the music teaching point of view that it’s good to recognise and reward and exploit for learning and ensemble purposes the quirkiness and skills of the weird people. Sometimes too the weirdness of the diagnosed people works against their finding friends. So if they have skills in musical or performance/drama groups that’s great for them, including for helping develop their friendships. Sometimes they are just plain hard work for the teacher, as their obsessions can get the better of group process. But on the other hand sometimes a focused and inspired student is just what you need to get an ensemble or class happening.

So I reckon you should find ways to work with your quirky students (with or without diagnostic labels), and include them just as readily as you would your polite, attractive, friendly, verbal, socially skilled students.

Sometimes too the quirky or odd students form friendships with other quirky students, so everyone’s happy.

Music and other arts classes or groups are great places for bullying to be naturally countermanded too, as people get engaged in the task at hand.

The PLN turns out to be a non-violent learning organisation

I’m realising that the users of blogs and Twitter aren’t usually people with too much time on their hands. Rather they are the lifelong learners who we keep trying to say are the leaders in the new 21C world, and to whom we are inspiring our own students to become. The Personal Learning Network (PLN) of course says this rather succinctly. So must keep blogging and reading. However, I don’t need much encouragement to keep learning: I actually probably need to stop every now and again!

Anyway, enough for week 4.

Andrew Tredinnick

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