piano_logo Home Special Needs and Music Education Piano Pedagogy Special Needs and Piano Pedagogy Meet the Director

Special Needs and Music Education

This section provides information on general special needs and music education resources, tools, and strategies for teaching. Our goal is to provide up-to-date research in this area. Please provide any recent research that would be useful to add to this list by filling out the contact portion.


Amadek, Mary S. and Alice-Ann Darrow. Music in Special Education. New York: American Music Therapy Association, 2005.

Amadek and Darrow explain the important concepts of special education including major topics dealing with special need children and music therapy. Its chapters include terminology, history, and current issues of different disabilities while addressing musical therapy and educational approaches to teaching students with SN.


Amadek, Mary S. “Meeting Special Needs in Music Class.” Music Educators Journal 87, no. 4 (2001): 23-26. www.jstor.org/stable/3399720.

Amadek’s article provides a real account of a teacher and their experiences teaching a child with special needs. She highlights strengths and weaknesses with the child and ways she overcame obstacles. The author then dives into ways of adapting while teaching students with special needs.


Birkenshaw-Fleming, Lois. Music for All: Teaching Music to People with Special Needs. Toronto: Gordon V. Thompson Music, 1993.

Chapter one provides general ideas, styles, and techniques when teaching music to students with SN. Topics covered include movement, singing, instruments, and music appreciation. The following chapters explore the different disabilities and provide instruction on strategies for how to accommodate and successfully teach those students.


Damer, Linda K. “Students with Special Needs.” Music Educators Journal 87, no. 4 (2001): 17-18. www.jstor.org/stable/3399718a.

Damer describes the importance of adaptability and inclusion in the music educational setting with SN students. She explains that technology, planning, and a general understanding of special needs and what that encompasses for each individual student is important for success in the educational setting.


Darrow, Alice-Ann. “Music Educators’ Perceptions Regarding the Inclusion of Students with Severe Disabilities in Music Classrooms.” Journal of Music Therapy 36, no. 4 (1999): 254–73.

The importance of inclusion in a classroom setting while teaching special needs children is explained in this article. The authors result from her studies provides ways to make a student feel welcome and included while teaching music. She focuses on pacing, planning, and accessibility for her SN students.


Dunn, Henry, Elizabeth Coombes, Emma Maclean, Helen Mottram, and Josie Nugent, eds. Music Therapy and Autism Across the Lifespan: A Spectrum of Approaches. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019.

The first three chapters cover improvisational approaches, collaborative approaches, and music therapy approaches connected with autistic identity and culture. This source particularly explores music and autism and how to improve educational experiences for those students. The final chapters reveal research data and analysis on the results of this practice.


Gerrity, Kevin W., Ryan M. Hourigan, and Patrick W. Horton. “Conditions That Facilitate Music Learning Among Students with Special Needs: A Mixed-Methods Inquiry.” Journal of Research in Music Education 61, no. 2 (2013): 144-59. www.jstor.org/stable/41999574.

The content includes detail on research and study when facilitating learning in different environments with children special needs. The children in the study had a wide range of special needs including autism, cognitive delays, down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. The conclusion includes the study’s results and strategies for effective teaching.


Graham, Richard M., and Alice S. Beer. Teaching Music to the Exceptional Child. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1980.

The authors of this book write about their research in mainstreaming the SN student into education. The chapters provide information on resources and services to aid when teaching a student music. Part II of the book includes practical instruction and step by step instruction on teaching singing, playing and moving. The instructions include short term and long-term goals for the student.


Graham, Richard M., ed. Music for the Exceptional Child. Reston: Music Educators National Conference, 1975.

Different experts in the field of special music education write about their experiences teaching exceptional children. The topics covered include issues in speech, hearing impairment, blind, and learning disabilities. The authors include experiences, and strategies when teaching students with these special needs.


Hammel, Alice M. and Ryan M. Hourigan. Teaching Music to Students with Special Needs: A Label-Free Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Hammel and Hourigan explore and explain effective strategies when teaching music to students with SN. Part two of the book includes preparation and a resourceful information on pedagogical approaches to teaching. Part three discusses practical adaptations, modifications, and techniques for educators. The last chapters include valuable recourses for music educators.


Hourigan, Ryan M. “Preservice Music Teachers' Perceptions of Fieldwork Experiences in a Special Needs Classroom.” Journal of Research in Music Education 57, no. 2 (2009): 152-68. www.jstor.org/stable/40204957.

Hourigan discusses his findings on research with music educators and their experience teaching in the elementary classroom setting with student with special needs. Content includes journals and discoveries from the educators and their experiences in the classroom. The author provides advice and tips from the studied educators and first-hand accounts to their experience and observations while teaching.


Jacobsen, Stine Lindahl, Eric G. Waldon, and Gustavo Gattino, eds. Music Therapy Assessment: Theory, Research, and Application. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019.

The authors write about assessment, research, and application of teaching music to people with SN. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 explore ways of assessing a person with SN including motor skills and cognitive functioning. The chapters would be most helpful in teaching music and piano to a student with SN. Practical solutions on how to implement these practices and assessment in a real clinical setting are provided.


Jacobsen, Stine Lindahl, Inge Nygaard Pedersen, and Lars Ole Bonde, eds. A Comprehensive Guide To Music Therapy: Theory, Clinical Practice, Research and Training. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002.

The authors discuss the theory’s intervention, practices, research, and evidence of music therapy. The chapters include information on how music effects a SN student by way of sound, touch, or sight. This source would be helpful in understanding the effect music has on a person and the ways in which a teacher can help and apply certain methods while teaching music.


McCord, Kimberly and Deborah VanderLinde Blair. Exceptional Music Pedagogy for Children with Exceptionalities: International Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

McCords book contains chapters written by different pedagogues in music. The chapters contain information on music activities, inclusion, issues, and special education in music education. Specifically, it discusses music for students hearing loss, specific learning disabilities, and behavioral issues.


McCord, Kimberly, and Margaret Fitzgerald. “Children with Disabilities Playing Musical Instruments.” Music Educators Journal 92, no. 4 (March 2006): 46-52.

McCord and Fitzgerald explain that even children with disabilities can play musical instruments with the right strategies. They provided general strategies for teaching students with SN to play instruments and read music. An illustration of a teacher’s example of teaching a student with down syndrome to read music is included.


Miles, T.R., John Westcombe, and Diana Ditchfield, eds. Music and Dyslexia: A Positive Approach. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 2008.

Information on dyslexia and problems that educators may have when teaching a student with dyslexia is provided in this book. Activities and exercises with teaching rhythm, literacy, and sight-reading are explained. Section three includes strategies and success stories with real musicians with dyslexia.


Ott, Pamela. Music for Special Kids: Musical Activities, Songs, Instruments and Resources. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011.

Ott writes about different musical activities for students with SN. The chapters include activities with song games, singing, dancing, instruments, rhythm activities, and musical concepts. This source would be great to use for general music learning skills for SN students.


Reid, Leon L., Paul E. Rosene, Ann F. Isaacs, Loupatti Miller, Edward C. Carney, Pamela Gearhart, and Eileene Norman. “Music in Special Education.” Music Educators Journal 59, no. 1 (1972): 7-8. www.jstor.org/stable/3394098.

The authors stress the importance of teaching students with special needs. They state that this form of expression is good for the student emotionally and for personal communication. The conclusion includes personal statements from educators that are working with SN needs students or has SN themselves.


Rudd, Even. Music Therapy: A perspective from the Humanities. Gilsum: Barcelona Publishers, 2010.

Rudd discusses the important of music therapy and the humanities. His chapters include topics over music meaning, enabling and empowerment, and health and quality of life. The author explores topics that connect the importance of music for all people and how that improves life.


Sobol, Elise S. An Attitude and Approach for Teaching Music to Special Learners. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Sobol explores and writes about approaches for teaching music to SN students. She includes information on the basics of music, the musical process, and standard base music education. The chapters include several illustrations and examples for helping student understand music basics such as rhythm, notes, tunes, and music reading.


Vance, Kate O’Brien. “Adapting Music Instruction for Students with Dyslexia.” Music Educators Journal 90, no. 5 (May 2004): 27-31.

The author defines and explores the characteristics that a person with dyslexia may have. Information on what to look for and how to adapt instruction from one’s observation is provided. The conclusion includes a list of practical adaptations for teachers to use.


Whipple, Jennifer, and Kimberly VanWeelden. “Educational Supports for Students with Special Needs: Preservice Music Educators’ Perceptions.” Applications of Research in Music Education 30, no. 2 (May 2012): 32–45.

Whipple and VanWeelden provide music educators with adequate information to successfully teach music to students with special needs. The article includes tables with ratings with involvement in teaching with written words, color coding, icons, echoing, buddy system, and other visual aids that help in the classroom setting. The data displayed from the study shows what is effective.


Zdzinski, Stephen F. “Instrumental Music for Special Learners.” Music Educators Journal 87, no. 4 (2001): 27-63. www.jstor.org/stable/3399721.

Zdzinski writes about the importance of evaluating students on their learning ability and musical ability before giving them music to learn. He includes information on parental involvement, adapting to student’s needs, and readability for students with SN. One highlight of this source is that it provides a list of resources for further study on this topic.


Hello and thank you for your interest and heart for inclusive piano teaching. We hope that this website provides you with the resources you need for your students.

If you know of a resource that is not included on this website - please share it with us so we can share with others.

Contact us with your name, a brief synopsis and your email at bradleyhetherington@gmail.com or provide the information below.

Join our Facebook group:

The Center for Special Needs and Piano Pedagogy - Facebook

- Bradley Hetherington, Director


Email Address