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Fostering Musical Engagement for the Special Needs Community

The Music Circle

This guidebook and video series provides educators, musicians and administrators with guidelines and resources to develop or enhance music learning and concert opportunities for people with special needs.

Learn more about the Music Circle for your school or organization.

Download the Music Circle Guidebook for detailed instructions and resource information.

Social Engagement

Music can be a great tool for encouraging social engagement. Even in larger groups we have noticed that the students are invested in what their peers are doing. It’s important for the workshop leader to foster this by encouraging the students to listen to each other and support each other, by saying things like “wow, did you hear that big sound? Let’s all clap for Billy!” It can also be fantastic to have participants at different levels, so don’t feel that they all need to be at the same place developmentally. Greater variety in capabilities creates greater variety in the student’s reactions to each other. When nurtured this produces extremely supportive environments.

Joint attention is the shared focus of two or more individuals on an object. This can be challenging for people with various diagnoses, particularly autism, but we see a lot of joint attention in our workshops because the participants are so engaged in what each other is doing, and are so interested in playing the instruments.

Reciprocity is seeking out a positive response from others by doing something positive. In young children, it begins with showing interest in interacting with others. As with joint attention, this can be very challenging and slow to develop in people with special needs, especially people with autism.

Another social skill that can be developed throughout this process is social and concert etiquette. Participants are encouraged to listen to and encourage one another, and also to clap for each others’ accomplishments!

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