Why Do Some Special Children Develop Exceptional Musical Abilities?
Most children engage with sound in three ways: as speech, as music and as a feature of the environment. In terms of mental functioning, almost invariably, they are captivated by pattern (repetition and regularity), but find the semantics and symbolism of verbal language challenging.
Turning to music, it shows that pieces of all genres are, astonishingly, 80% repetitive, and not just in relation to the recurrence of motifs and themes. Every element of music – pitch, duration, dynamic and timbre – is supersaturated with repetition. Unlike language, whose words point beyond themselves to things in the ‘real world’, musical notes point only to each other, and they do so over and over again: the meaning of music is in the repetitive, abstract patterns of relationship between them.
Finally, the environment. Music-psychological research shows that young children are exposed to music about 80% of the time, whether emanating from toys, computers, ring-tones, the television, radio or even other humans! Little wonder, then, that the pattern-loving autistic mind, seeking to make sense of the world, attracted to sound but confused by language, and surrounded by music, latches on to this intoxicating source of order and predictability.
What Should A Teacher Do?
Being empathetic and interactive is the key. Interact through music as though it were language: imitate what your pupils do, exactly at first, and then make changes; give them the sense that they are influencing you; present them with fascinating musical fragments to copy; dialogue in sound; improvise simultaneously.
Support children in developing the technique they need to produce whatever they can hear in their heads: model the necessary movements for them; encourage them to attend to what you do by looking, listening and feeling; offer physical guidance.
Daphne says after teaching for so many years, from her experience, “Do not underestimate a special child’s talent…it is very fulfilling and touching when they finally pluck up their courage to perform or take an exam.”
If you have a special child and would like music lessons from Daphne, call: 012-5183290.
She teaches at Creative Music Academy, 05-5479828.