Music for Children with Special Educational Needs

Boy with hearing loss learns violin

SEN provision for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Our all-inclusive music programme aims to benefit children by building their confidence, creating empathetic team players and giving them a medium through which to express themselves. While these aims are true for all pupils regardless of their needs or ability, it is undoubtedly difficult for most children with autism to benefit and enjoy musical activities if the environment is not conducive.

Gallions Primary School has a special provision unit for 18 children with ASD. In addition, there are several children with autism in the mainstream education provision, who also find the noisy environment of a standard music lesson overwhelming.

Given that it is not always possible to cater for the needs of these children in a standard environment, Gallions Music Trust helps to support additional provision which is more suited to these children’s needs.

Sessions like those provided by JAM! Music are designed to meet the needs and abilities of these children, allowing them to feel confident and reassured when taking part in musical activities which will help them to reach their social and communicative potential. Sessions take place in a designated music room, a relaxed space with minimal distractions.

Many students can identify instruments when they are asked to for example “pick up a violin” or to choose between the iPad or a ukulele. There is a high percentage of non-verbal children in the special provision unit at Gallions, but we nonetheless encourage singing and have around 25% of pupils willing to sing in front of their classmates – quite an achievement.

For some children, it has helped them with their language development, for others it has helped them take part in the school’s string instrumental provision. This would not have happened without these additional sessions. At Gallions, 7 pupils from the ASD special provision have now joined mainstream small group violin lessons, following the sessions with JAM!

Overall Impact

Music provides a safe and acceptable mode for expressing a range of emotions. A pupil who is feeling angry or agitated may be helped by playing drums loudly. Music provision for children with ASD provides children with better chances in life, and an improvement in their life skills including their ability to communicate and relate to others socially.

Whilst the latest academic studies back up our approach, it is the personal stories that most influence our desire to continue and expand our music programme. If we continue to inspire these children and the community around them, who knows what they will be able to achieve in life?