In RPM, students respond to and discuss educational content through picking from options, spelling on a stencil or letterboard, typing, handwriting, or speaking. Both communication and education are powerful tools to having a fulfilling and successful life. All of us need to express ourselves in a variety of situations and in a variety of ways.
We express ourselves with our facial expressions, gestures, actions, and abilities. Some like to express themselves through listening rather than talking/using words OR through art, music or dancing rather than speech. Sometimes we call forms of art 'creative outlets.' These modalities of expressing one's self without words, are powerful enough modes of communication that some artist have had their art banned or were even imprisoned--such as Kazimir Malevich.
Many of our students thrive or would thrive with these other ways (music, art, etc) of expression and development of these skills. For many parents/teachers, the arts like music and drawing, may be intimidating to teach because we lack the skills or knowledge ourselves. Yet research shows that you don't need to be smart to play music and you don't need to be talented either. Research is clear on some of the benefits of the arts.
Research on Music Education
Dr. Anita Collins (See here, here, and here, ) found in research that music education improve cognitive function, helps our memories to work, helps us learn language, helps us to moderate our emotional states, helps us become comfortable with discomfort (including learning) and helps us solve complex problems. In research on babies a few days old, it confirmed a hypothesis that music processing is needed for language development.
Dr Collins found music education works the visual, motor, and auditory cortices all at ones. Listening to music works the brain more than reading, math, and other task. Researchers found that musicians have a larger bridge (corpus callosum) between the right and left brain--making the brain work together incredible well. Music education could be the glue to help us in education (including with learning disabilities) as it integrates the different parts of the brain. Physically playing music is even more powerful than playing a sport or doing art (painting/drawing). It is like a full brain exercise/workout!!!
Other research suggest that individuals with disabilities are more likely to have perfect pitch. In other words, music education can be important to develop a talent along with the many other benefits.
What to do?
In RPM we are interested in teaching many skills (both motor and sensory tolerance skills) in addition to education with communication as one of the outcomes. Music is no exception. In fact it works beautifully to use RPM to teach music. You can do RPM music education even when a student is working with paper options.
Even if you don't have a lot of experience with music and music education, you can give lessons in music to your student. If your student "takes off" with it or you want your student to have a deeper experience with music, you can find a professional to teach or guide you along.
To start, you can teach types of music and listen to a variety of music. You can teach about different composers and share their music. Teach about musical instruments and share the sounds they make. Basic music theory (what is music? What are some "rules" in music?) like music vocabulary: beat, rhythm, notes, measure, can also be taught.
Some students will not have the auditory tolerance to handle listening to some music or musical instruments. To grow this tolerance, play a song for a short amount at a time. It is important to help the student listen to music that is different than specific styles or tunes your student listens to normally, (if your student is selective about what music he or she will tolerate.)
(I wrote a book to teach music to students adapted for teachers and parents who are not very familiar with music to those who are more proficient. You can find more information about that here and purchase it here, if you find that useful.)
Here is a free Lesson plan on basic music theory (from my music lesson plan book) to give you an idea of what you can do:
Additionally, if your student is managing fairly well in RPM sessions, he or she may benefit from composing simple songs. Again, there are apps (such as 'Piano') that label notes for you, so you don't have to know music well in order to teach these basics. First, you will teach them enough to understand a bit about music and the notes (resources below). Then you can let them work on composing.
If your student is not yet able to generate open ended responses, basic music composition can be really beneficial as it allow the student to be creative, but there isn't a "wrong note," so to speak, IF you give them a selection of notes to pick from. This gives the opportunity to work on "open ended" responses without the fear of being "wrong." (Below are music letter boards that will help you have "correct notes" for the student to pick from) If your student/child takes a liking then you can look for music professionals to help your child develop their talent or further their music education. Videos modeling on how to do very basic composing can be found here. A free online source where you can record student notes (if you know the notes on a staff) and have the song played back, can be found at www.noteflight.com.
Here are some free materials to get you started with teaching music so a student could compose a basic song. To do it well, they will benefit from more instruction, but this should get you heading in the right direction (My music book will give you a more full and complete foundation so this makes sense, as it may feel really overwhelming if you have no music background):
A Lesson plan on learning the musical notes (from my music lesson plan book)
Worksheet for composing lessons:
What to do: Playing music
Playing music requires a bit more regulation, although perfection isn't required. Motor, emotional, and sensory readiness are needed. Ideally, the student can spell out answers on the full letterboard. (That is a good gauge for motor readiness). Here are a list of instruments I have picked out that I believe the majority of RPM students can learn to play. (Doesn't have to be good, but can do something with it whether a simple beat or tune or something more complex). This list is not complete. Inexpensive instruments can be purchased on amazon as well as beginning books to help you get started. Some require finger isolation and some don't, so that is something to think about when picking out instruments with a student.
If the student can blow air through an instrument:
When teaching instruments, you will need to motor model and give independent practice right after. Here is a video clip of me teaching a student a variety of piano skills. Each student is different. Not all will do the same thing. This student was really excited about doing it. (Teaching how to physically play a musical instrument is NOT found in my music book, but I will help you online with the skill if you ask or when a keyboard is available in an in person RPM session.) If you are interested in learning how to teach students to play the piano with an RPM friendly professional music teacher and for other resources check out Selena Pistoresi's website: www.notablepiano.com.
Other Resources for Sensory Tolerance
This book may be helpful in growing sensory tolerance. Sensory tolerance is important for all types of skill development.
Lenae Crandall is a certified Special Education Teacher and certified SomaRPM provider.