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Yes We Can! Students with Autism & Downs-Syndrome on the Drums!

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Keywords: participation skills, music, Special needs, motivation
Subject(s): Social Studies, Photography, Music, Special Needs, Autism, Social Skills, Video, English/Language Arts, Science, Math
Grades K through 12
School: Quest Center, Hollywood, FL
Planned By: David Lazerson
Original Author: David Lazerson, Hollywood
Objective: To increase active participation for students with profound special needs through experiential, hands-on musical activities.

Students with profound special needs often have a difficult time relating to the "outside" environment. Both teachers & educators note that these students often seem to be in "their own world." A lesson such as this one would help these students to go from their usual role of passive observers to one of more active participants.

Students will play along to live music using a variety of percussion & drum instruments. Many of these will be homemade and others will involve the use of adaptive drums, such as using switches to activate various percussion sounds and motions. For some students with more involved physical challenges, such as cerebral palsy (CP), this may require hand-over-hand assistance.

Using our digital cameras, we will document all of these exciting, motivational activities, showing our students in action. These pictures will then be displayed on various bulletin boards throughout the school, in our newsletters, and also in specially developed audio-visual slideshows shown to the classes. We will use Intellisuites and Powerpoint to produce these AV slide/video shows.

It is anticipated that these activities will be a real motivating factor in helping to involve our special needs students in the learning process.

In addition, special AV shows will be made for specific songs and curriculum themes, such as songs about love for February, trees & leaves for Autumn, etc. Students will learn about these themes using a combination of the hands-on music participation along with the specific Powerpoint AV presentation - many of which will depict the students themselves in action.

For example, if the unit is about animals, digital pictures of the students will be taken with them holding various pictures of pets - and in some cases holding real live pets. These pictures of the students will then be put into a powerpoint show while the music teacher plays the song Old McDonald. Thus, the students will hear the song, see the pictures, and play along at the very same time on their adaptive percussion instruments.
The entire unit can be moved from classroom to classroom, as well as to outside venues, such as senior centers, etc. This would enable the students to travel to other school & perform in the community at large!
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This type of lesson lends itself to all other areas of the curriculum. It simply uses the power & magic of music to motivate the students. So a unit could be developed that focuses on math skills, for example, using the song This Old Man. The students would hear the song, see the numbers as presented via the Powerpoint slideshow on the large screen, and at the same time, play along on their percussion instruments! I think it's a winning combo!
Here too, there's no end to what one can do with this notion. Parents can take pics of their children at home and at other places in the community, such as the store, the restaurant, movie theatre, etc. These can then be incorporated into the song slideshow, such as a funny song as Down By The Bay, with some made up verses.
Materials: Cause and Effect, Worksheets, Timeline, Slideshow, Web Page, Podcasting, Social Studies, Science, Math, Flash/USB Drives, Batteries, Camera Bags, Digital Voice Recorders, Sports, Point and Shoot, Wildlife
Other Items: 1 reverse movie screen - portable, $800 each, total of $800.00
1 computer projector, $700 each, total of $700.00
1 video camcorder, $600 each, total of $600.00
3 digital cameras, $150 each, total of $450.00
1 laptop computer, $1000 each, total of $1000.00