Setting Students with Special Needs Up For Success in Music

For the past eight years, in my role as a planning time teacher, I have had the privilege of working with over 50 students with a variety of special needs. Our school has been fortunate to have 4 different types of contained classes and students with a variety of special needs in the mainstream classes. It has been important to me to ensure that all of my students are successful regardless of their needs. I have set them up for success by implementing some consistent practices in my program.

Students have come with a variety of needs to my classroom. In addressing those needs, I have set goals for their alternative and modified IEPs, followed PBIPs and helped to create social stories. The contributions to these documents have ensured that students’ needs are addressed and that their best interests are taken into account.  Goals have been academic, social, and life skills oriented.  For example, skills such as taking turns, coping with a noisy environment, and transitioning between spaces have been areas that my students have worked on. If you are not sure how to write IEPs or contribute to behaviour plans I recommend the following resource from the ministry of education which will be helpful for writing your first IEP. IEP Resource Guide

ERFs have been important teammates in positively impacting student learning in my class. I don’t know what I would do without their talents.  It is important to be able communicate effectively your expectations for the students they are assisting. I know that I am responsible for planning for my students with special needs but I am open to the ideas and suggestions of our ERFs, as they know the students they work with very well.  ERFs are an integral part of my classroom and are included in the structure of our day to day activities and routines.

For students with special needs, a predictable environment is very important.  Knowing what will take place during their day helps them to feel safe and secure.  This feeling of security minimizes the chances of students having outbursts and other behavioural challenges.  I have used visual schedules, verbal, individualized prompts, and clear instructions and expectations to ensure that students know what to expect.

With my music and drama background, I provide an engaging and interactive environment for students.  Singing songs and movement are incorporated into many activities.  They are encouraged to show their creativity and their individuality.  Planning is done to include materials and activities that highlight students’ strengths.  Humour is an essential part of my classroom environment.

In making all of these elements a part of my practice, I know that I have set up my students with special needs, both past and present, for success.

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The Author

Tammy Axt

I am a music teacher at Red Willow Public School in the Peel District School Board. I love supporting students through the creative process and grooving to music! My interests include running and trying to learn how to ride a motorcycle.

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