A very special thanks to Maureen Butler for contributing this article!
As a teacher of students with special needs, I’ve found that children vary widely in their ability to play rhythm instruments. Some children have difficulty manipulating the instruments themselves, while others may have difficulty grasping mallets and drumsticks. But rhythm instruments are a valuable part of music class – and children love being making music with them! I want all my students to participate in my class, and when I use adaptive instruments, my children with special needs can have successful musical experiences.
For students whose motor issues prevent them from holding an instrument in one hand while hitting it with another, clamps and mounts keep triangles, tambourines, and paddle drums secure. Non-slipping drawer liners can prevent instruments from sliding off a desk or tray. Velcro straps can help children hold and shake small instruments. My students love using egg shakers that I purchased from West Music!
When holding a mallet presents a challenge for children, there are a number of ways to adapt. For those with a weak grip, adding padding to the mallet, or inserting the mallet through a tennis or foam ball will make it easier for them. Others may use transverse mallets (T-mounts) that have large vinyl grips, or even mallet cuffs (worn on the child’s hands, they eliminate the need to grip).
Using adaptive instruments helps ensure that all of our students will find a welcoming place in music class – and will benefit from an enriching, educational experience!