Teaching Music to Visually Impaired Students

Topics: Blindness, Braille, Visual impairment Pages: 9 (2628 words) Published: September 11, 2013
Strategies for Teaching Music to Visually Impaired Students

Sean M. Rybak

Kent State University


The purpose of this study was to research successful strategies for teaching music to mainstreamed students who are visually impaired. The way visually impaired students learn classify them into one of three learning groups; visual learners who learn by sight, tactile learners who learn from touch and auditory learners who learn by hearing. Strategies for each learning style are provided as well as domain specific accommodations and modifications for instrumental, vocal and general music. Emphasis is put on the fact that instructors must properly assess the abilities of the visually impaired student in question before applying any suggested strategies. In addition, instructors should not abandon other types of learning once a successful strategy is found. Keywords: visual impairment, blind, music, braille

Strategies for Teaching Music to Visually Impaired Students

The 1954 ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education case motivated parents of children with disabilities to advocate and make a push for equal access to education for their children (Abeles, 2010). The ruling of the 1972 case, Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania stated that “children with mental retardation were entitled to free, appropriate public education (as cited in Abeles, 2010). This ruling led to the 1975 passing of Public Law 94-142, titled Education for All Handicapped Children Act. The law has been revised over the years and is now referred to as the IDEA or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Abeles, 2010). Public Law 94-142 has been creating new challenges for teachers since it’s implementation in 1975 by including students with a wide range of disabilities in the everyday classroom through mainstreaming and inclusion. The purpose of this study is to research and present effective strategies for teaching instrumental, vocal and general music to visually impaired students. Review of Literature

The severity of a student’s visual impairment can range from low vision to completely blind. Three different learning styles emerge based on each student’s visual ability; visual, tactual, or auditory (Coates, 2012). Teaching strategies for each of these learning styles will first be examined. The section after will consist of domain specific (instrumental, choral, general music) accommodations and modifications. Visual

Some students who have low vision or are partially sighted can still use their eyes to read written music. Visual learners often must move closer to the music, use magnifiers or scopes as an optical aid, or have their music enlarged (Coates, 2012). Some students with vision loss prefer reverse polarity background display (black background with white notation) (Siligo, 2005). In addition to enlarged music, special stands can be used to aid the student. The special stands should be made to have two-piece arms that extend and enable the reader to be closer to the music without moving the stand’s base (McReynolds, 1988). Enlarged music often leads to multiple page turns, which becomes troublesome for many students. Lime Lighter is an electronic device that displays enlarged versions of scanned music on a screen. Students can advance the written music with a foot pedal while they are playing. A stylus tool can be used to add rehearsal marks to the music and a playback feature can play the written music at tempo. Tactual

Tactual learners learn through the sense of touch. These students can learn to read music by using braille. Teaching a student to use literary braille is often easier then going straight to braille music, which uses a different set of braille codes (Siligo, 2005). Literary braille allows students to use the braille alphabet that they are already familiar with to write and read music. Using a small braille computer...

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