Music Resources for Special Needs Groups

I describe myself as a teacher and facilitator but, in reality, all teachers are facilitators: we try to make pupils aware of, and develop confidence in, their abilities: to enable them to do what they can do. Over the years, as a freelance teacher and independent educational consultant, I’ve been asked to adapt my ideas and resources to many special needs situations. I’ve been approached by carers and teachers who believe passionately in the value of music to those in their care but they seldom dream that they, themselves, can provide such musical experiences.

Often working alone, without an accompanist, I turned to technology to fulfil the latter role so that I could engage fully with the participants. Soon, the amazingly versatile ‘MIDIgrid’ software, developed at York University, became an essential resource. This is ‘content-free’ software, something like a word-processing and presentation package for music. I found that, in addition to providing speedy access to customised backing tracks for the sessions, I was able to use the software to create virtual instruments which could be played with a range of special access devices. Having established a computer-based system with resources that had proven their worth in a range of situations, I saw that this was a way in which I might enable carers to run their own sessions. In 2005, York University created GridPlay, the Full Pitcher’s read-only version of the software, which I could distribute with my resource packs.

Mindful that making provision for someone with a disability is a very individual matter, the special needs resources were offered as a customised, created to order, product. This, however, has proved a bit daunting to many who don’t really know where to start. So, our new GridPlay for Carers/Teachers takes a different approach: the package includes the most generally useful resources, with unlimited post-sales support and customisation. Also included is a 43-page e-book, with ideas for using the grids, sheet music for several original songs and suggestions for initiating and sustaining music sessions for people with profound disabilities. Hopefully, this package will enable many more carers and teachers to make music with those in their care. At a time when it is increasingly difficult to find the funds to buy in specialist provision, this will, hopefully, be ‘half a loaf’ for many who would otherwise go without bread. See:

Grids from the GridPlay resource packs can be loaded into the parent program and, in the latter, users can create and save their own customised versions of the grids. In this way, teachers can create grids set up for different methods of access and can also save recordings made by pupils playing the virtual instruments.