Sunday, February 19, 2012

Special - an introduction

True confession - I could not believe that one of my colleagues had no idea what ADD is. We were discussing a common student whose challenges were in line with what I had read and experienced concerning attention deficit disorders when I casually dropped in the three-letter moniker as an umbrella explanation. I had no idea that he had no idea.

IDEA, by the way, is the abbreviation for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, started in 1975 around the time I was finishing my masters program. I had no idea what IDEA was when studying music education because, well, it wasn't. We were taught in a time of smart, dumb, lazy, responsible, talkative, shy, stubborn - not in the time of OCD, ODD, LD and the increasingly long list of acronyms for manifestations that prevent students from learning the way we think they should.

For my generation, learning about learning differences and challenges had to be done the old-fashioned way, by trial and error, talking to parents, and self-motivated study. As tutors/mentors, independent teachers have the freedom to do this, and we gain a lot from doing so. We also have the opportunity to provide a positive learning experience for students who find traditional learning settings less friendly.

In Pennsylvania students in teacher education programs are now required to complete 9 credits of special education courses. This semester I'm sitting in the back row of one of these classes. I'm quietly linking the research and suggestions to students past and present. I'm keeping up with the reading assignments and asking questions and making mental notes of the ways I could help certain students.

I'm also realizing that a lot of these approaches work with any student, but perhaps in differing proportions. Ways to improve listening through tools and adaptations are not just useful for hearing impaired students, for example. Many of my students enjoy hearing themselves sing into my "elbowphone", which is a PVC elbow pipe purchased for a few bucks at the local hardware store. And students who are identified with particular challenges also have accompanying strengths, exactly like the so-called "normal" students.

With this blog as an introduction, I will follow up with information I'm learning that could be applied in the private lesson situation. There is a lot of information out there, making it a much better time to "specialize" private teaching than when I started decades ago.

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