Being an Advocate

As a musician with a limb difference and a music educator, I have a unique perspective on the challenges of integrating students with limb differences in the music classroom.  Countless teachers have asked me what they can do to help their students.  Indeed, I have met many thoughtful, caring teachers who think years in advance about how they will help a student with their instrumental studies.  I have also spoken with many parents who want their children to be included in music class.  Very occasionally I hear a story about a music teacher who says that a child with a limb difference cannot play an instrument.  

What do you do in this situation?  As a person with a limb difference or a parent, how do you react?  I think it is important to keep several concepts in mind.

  1. Breathe.  It can be infuriating to hear someone say that what you are trying to do is impossible.
  2. Realize this: you have an educational opportunity.  The music teacher who is sharing closed-minded opinions has probably never taught a student with a limb difference.  You have the power to change the way they see the world.  People with limb differences can live normal lives, tie shoes, make jokes, and play musical instruments.  
  3. Do some research.  What instrument is the challenge?  How have other musicians with limb differences used adaptive techniques to play?  Check out articles on this blog and elsewhere on the internet.  Show these adaptations to the teacher.  Try to stay patient and positive.
  4. Contact me!  I am happy to brainstorm with you and talk to music teachers who need ideas.
  5. Prove them wrong!  Learn how to play an instrument.  Surprise the music teacher, other classmates, and the world.  Model grit, perseverance, and creativity.
  6. Tell me about your solution, as I am always collecting more!