Sunday, November 30, 2008

Adapting Music Instruction for Students with Dyslexia

Adapting Music Instruction for Students with Dyslexia
Kate O’Brien Vance

O’Brien Vance, K. (2004) Adapting Music Instruction for Students with Dyslexia. Music Educators Journal. 90(5). p. 27-31.

Report by: Shauna Garelick


Vance provides an explanation of dyslexia as a learning disorder including a definition and symptoms in order to help educators to identify the condition in their students. Through a narrative of her own experience as a student with dyslexia who was an avid music student, she explores the possible benefits that other students with dyslexia would experience if they participated in music education. Vance provides a list of practical adaptations that can be applied in the music classroom. Because information about dyslexia is generally discussed in relation to literacy and numeracy, important relationships and parallels are drawn between music and language, and music and numeracy. Addressing various skills involved with becoming a musician, pedagogies that best suit and reflect the learning style of students with dyslexia are explored. This includes rhythm, pitch discrimination and motor skills.


This article is an excellent introduction as to how a music teacher can not only cope with teaching a student with dyslexia, but also have explore the possibility that a teacher can have a profound influence on a student struggling in other areas of academia. While the discipline of music has always been explored in terms of its potential in music therapy, there are few people who write about how music educators can adapt their lessons to support the needs of students with learning disabilities in the mainstream class. Perhaps this is because it requires the translation from traditional educational strategies to those which can be implemented in the music classroom. Vance addresses the key areas of learning music and specific music pedagogies that will support learning of students with dyslexia, and why this would be successful. While a discussion of parallels between language and music cognition in the brain. However, a better explanation would be helpful to help teachers to better understand this relationship. For example, perhaps explaining why there is a relationship between music and language in the brain would be helpful. This is a key aspect of the article to help the reader to better understand how to approach teaching a student with dyslexia instead of following directions at face value.


I have spent a great deal of time working toward developing a way to reach students with developmental disabilities through music. However, in addressing students with dyslexia, it is clear that I have left a hole in my attempts. While I have always had a lot of patients for helping students with learning disabilities in the mainstream classroom, I had never had a cohesive strategy that was based on specific pedagogy in music education that was based on sound research from outside of this discourse. This article has helped me to recognize this significance and how I would be far more effective in all of my teaching if my pedagogy was more grounded and was based on the fundamental aspects of how people learn and learn differently.


Lee said...

Are you convinced that "dyslexia" is a definable and defensible phenomenon? Over the years the term has been considered a gross over generalization about what in actuality is a set of rather specific language processing or information processing disorders. As such each may need a different strategy and lumping them together may not be the best approach. So just a caution in taking what is a problem term in language education, and applying it to where it may be even less precise in music.


Shauna said...

No, I am not really convinced that any definition of a 'condition' can be neatly put into a definition, but I was using their definition of dyslexia for the purposes of the article. Wouldn't everything be so much easier if we could all be so nicely defined? I think however we would also be boring!!

Kate said...

I believe that the term "dyslexia" as it is currently used will eventually, if not soon, be broken into several separate terms and specific conditions, much like the old use of "autism" has developed into "the autism spectrum." But for now (and back in 2002 when I wrote this article), the currently understood term "dyslexia" is the best thing we have to work with. I hope my article becomes incredibly out-of-date as researchers and teachers come up with MUCH better ways of specifying the various disorders grouped under the umbrella term.