Adapting your way of working for a child who can’t see
Adapting your way of working for a child who can’t see
In Lucy’s story, Adam, a trustee of Amber, explains the importance of teachers adopting a child-centred approach in relation to young blind children who are on the autism spectrum Lucy's Story @ 08:51. Adam contends that, in one sense, it is impossible to teach children like these anything; teachers can only facilitate their development through providing an optimal environment in which they can learn. With no guidance at all, and in the context of severe learning difficulties, Lucy began to teach herself to play the keyboard as a little girl. That powerful, inner drive could all too easily have thwarted any pre-determined teaching agenda that her teacher Daniel may have tried to bring to bear. But Daniel coaxes Lucy’s self-determined learning trajectory towards ends that will enable her to achieve more than would otherwise have been possible; introducing her to new repertoire (and giving her choices as to what to learn next) and suggesting fingering patterns that enable her to realise on the keyboard what she can hear so well in her head. Daniel discusses his approach to working with Lucy here Lucy's Story @ 01:27. He talks about how he adapted his teaching style to meet her needs, and how his working relationship with Lucy has evolved. He discusses pacing, structure, and how they negotiate the content of lessons.
In Hazel’s story, we see teacher Glenn intuitively working in a child-centred way, and Adam reflects on the strengths of his approach here Hazel's Story @ 06:03. Over a number of years, Glenn has developed a unique relationship with Hazel, who has a special social and emotional profile, enabling him to scaffold her learning effectively. The lesson flows seamlessly from creative, spontaneous and imaginative improvisation to more structured teaching pertaining to technique and learning new pieces. While the session shown here is individual to Glenn and Hazel, it illustrates the basis of any successful teacher-pupil partnership: a musical relationship built on trust, mutual respect, a sense of shared purpose and – crucially – enjoyment.
Adam discusses how to approach teaching Aizah, a young blind child, here Aizah's Story @ 01:43. He remarks: ‘The most powerful, potent force is a child’s own motivation. If you show that you are prepared to walk their musical journey, they will be happy and thrilled to engage with you’.
Adam’s approach to teaching Ashleigh, a blind, autistic teenager with exceptional musical potential, which aims to use her own motivations to direct her learning in a purposeful way, is shown here Ashleigh's Story @ 01:36. Over the three years that Adam has been working with Ashleigh, she has moved from a position of not tolerating technical exercises to enjoying the challenge they offer. Adam engages her interest by changing the rhythm and the key of each repetition of a Hanon exercise Ashleigh's Story @ 00:45. Ashleigh has moved on from an intolerance of anything but pop music to relishing the Western Classical and Romantic piano repertoire. Adam developed her interest by showing her musical connections between certain Abba songs (in which she had an obsessive interest) and the folk melodies used by Grieg! Ashleigh loves to improvise, and re-imagining Classical tunes in the style of Abba appealed both to her musicality and her humour, and showed her the deeper structural similarities that lie beneath the surface of music in apparently contrasting styles.
Lucy’s teacher Daniel is introducing her to the 48 Preludes and Fugues by Bach, as well as the jazz of Miles Davis Lucy's Story @ 00:57. While this may appear to be an incongruous choice of repertoire for a girl of her age and general level of development, it actually meets her musical needs and engages her interests perfectly, tapping into her love of complex patterns and (in the case of the Davis) enabling her to extend her ability to improvise. So despite the pieces hailing from very different musical traditions, they are all grist to Lucy’s voracious musical mill. Lucy is fortunate in having a teacher who is comfortable playing in a range of styles. Other pupils may have to rely on different teachers to work with them on different repertoires.
Anaya’s family are from Pakistan and she enjoys songs in Urdu, which she often listens to at home with her family. Daniel has made every effort to get to know the music of her culture, and he plays and sings an Urdu piece with her, strengthening their musical relationship based on mutual respect and interest, and giving Anaya a sense of ownership and empowerment. Anaya's Story @ 03:27
Anaya’s lesson Anaya's Story is full of music, with verbal explanation and comment kept to a minimum. Daniel teaches music through music, not through words. He demonstrates the musical direction in which he wishes Anaya to travel, playing a good deal himself, and encouraging her to listen and join in. He observes that for a child to contribute, albeit a small part, to a potentially rich and complex musical texture can be immensely motivating.
Glenn and Hazel Hazel's Story play together throughout almost all of the lesson. There is little purely verbal interaction. This is because Hazel’s use and understanding of language are not as advanced as her capacity to engage with music. Notice how Glenn skilfully introduces Hazel to what he wants to do next using musical cues. This approach may well be worth emulating with a range of other pupils.
Lucy’s verbal communication and understanding are limited. In Lucy’s story Lucy's Story, notice how Daniel communicates with her primarily through music, using language minimally, in short phrases, and using only words and concepts that she is likely to understand and that are directly relevant to the task in hand. This gives Lucy the best possible chance of grasping what is being said, what is going to happen next, and of voicing her own views. And, above all, it means that the maximum possible amount of time can be spent making music.