Sunday, November 16, 2014

Music and Disability

In some circles the aim of teaching children with disability is to mask their specialness by getting them to produce results commensurate with those produced by more typical children.  I couldn't disagree more.

The aim of all education should be to strengthen the individuality of every child, typical or set apart by special characteristics, whether of genius or any other sort.

I work at this by stressing variation.  No piece of music is ever repeated mechanically, but always with variations of timing, tempo, dynamics, articulation.

This morning I witnessed the triumph of that approach as a young man with severe developmental disability not only figured out how to coordinate his two hands in a tricky assortment of eighth notes vs. quarter notes and consonances vs. dissonances, but - even more impressive - he slowed himself down in order to do it with greater accuracy.

Slowing oneself down voluntarily is one of life's more difficult adjustments.  That he did it of his own accord is proof that teaching variability is critical to the heart of the person.  It gives them choices, empowers them.