Teaching Special Needs – Be Inspired!

Writing last week’s blog about my special needs pupil felt really quite special for me. It was lovely to find that are quite a few of us who have been inspired by similar situations in our teaching.


This week we are continuing our Special Needs theme by highlighting some of the great resources that are available these days.

special needs


Did you know that next Tuesday, March 21st 2018 is World Down Syndrome Day? FIND OUT MORE

One piano teacher who has experienced the joys of teaching children with Down Syndrome is Birmingham-based Rosie Cross. In a great article CLICK HERE she explains that she had no previous experience but urges others to also give it a go. As she says: ‘Tom and I have learned together’. If you want to find out more investigate melodymusic.org.uk


Dyslexia is probably the special needs that we are most familiar with in the piano studio. Nevertheless it can present itself in such a variety of ways that it can be tricky to fully comprehend. Luckily the British Dyslexia Association have a great website, one section of which is devoted to Dyslexia and Music. It really is an incredibly useful resource. THE BRITISH DYSLEXIA ASSOCIATION

As well as looking at what can be done to help dyslexic individuals it also considers dyspraxia. Another website that is rich in practical information is the 2E Music Studio. This was established by Australian Melissa Gindy and provides useful scenarios and strategies. THE 2E MUSIC STUDIO


Individuals who are on the autistic spectrum have their own specific and particular set of needs. This can range from being highly articulate to completely non-verbal. Professor Adam Ockelford, one the world’s leading authorities on autism, has given an inspiring TedTalk along with pianist Derek Paravicini, who was born blind and with severe autism.


You might also be interested in looking at the Sounds of Intent framework. The aim of it is to investigate and promote the musical development of children and young people with learning difficulties. THE SOUNDS OF INTENT FRAMEWORK


The Amber Trust (UK) was founded in 1995 to help blind and partially sighted children, including those with additional disabilities, to access and enjoy music. VISIT THE WEBSITE TO FIND OUT MORE


Percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie says ‘I’m not a deaf musician, I am a musician who happens to be deaf’. She is truly inspirational in this TedTalk, How to truly listen.


Also, read this fascinating insight into how a teacher can help pianists with hearing loss adjust by Nancy M.Williams. CLICK HERE


Finally, there are many, many special needs children and individuals in our society who would benefit hugely from piano lessons. They just need to be given the opportunity and that’s down to us. Who knows, you might just find the next Derek Paravicini!


This blog post was written by Dr. Sally Cathcart, Co-Founder and Director of The Curious Piano Teachers.

7 thoughts on “Teaching Special Needs – Be Inspired!

  1. Simon Burgess

    This is great, is there anywhere I can incorporate and learn about teaching a blind young girl with cerebral palsy please? I have had an enquiry from a parent in Ossett. So if anyone actually teaches in this area and looks after special needs children please contact me as well.

  2. Karen Marshall

    Just to let Curious Piano Teachers know – Practical Solutions for Music Learning and Dyslexia –
    There is an excellent 2-day course on music and dyslexia running on 4th and 5th April in London.
    There’s still time to enrol if anyone is interested.
    This year, the course is being led by Joy Smith, a member of the B.D.A. music committee. She is an experienced teacher and has a full AMBDA qualification (Associate member of the BDA) in Specific Learning Difficulties. I can highly recommend her work. Do get in touch with the BDA via their website if you are interested. You can do a qualification by attending the course. Warmest wishes, Karen Marshall

  3. Rosie Cross

    Hello. Thankyou fir this excellent summary and all the pointers towards developing the subject of SEN music teaching. We would be grateful if you could flag up Melody. Invite people to visit and see what goes on. Maybe even start a similar group. See melodymusic.org.uk. Thanks. Rosie Cross

  4. Judith Bogod

    There is a category of Special Needs known as ‘Delayed Development’ (DD) – IQ below 70 and a category of Special Needs known as ‘learning difficulties’ (LD) – IQ average to above average even to gifted. The two are often confused. Learning difficulties can present with mild neural deficits, i.e an average LD student takes twice as long to process new learning or to memorize tasks while at the same time, they are well advanced in essary writing or art work. I am a special needs student with ‘learning difficulties’. I have average IQ but am slow to pick up social cues, understand certain humor, have difficulty following maps, difficulty calculating sales discounts in a store, cannot say the alphabet backwards and counting down from the ledger line is a problem although counting up from the ledger line is no problem. I have tried to find music teachers who have any training whatsoever in learning difficulties even to the extent of asking a Dean of a National Conservatory of Music who I do not think knew what I was talking about. So, no there are no LD music teachers. I have passed Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and am taking level 5 in June. It is difficult for me. Chord progressions are a nightmare. I do not think teaching those with LD is the same as teaching those DD and there are few music teachers who have the patience needed to quietly explain, illustrate or use repetition. Math and music go very much hand in hand. LD students are likely to be poor at math and that is the reason why very few LD students attempt to learn music. I think it is a pity because, if they are like me, they love music, deeply and passionately.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. The Name, Email and Comment fields are required

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.