Recital season is close by, and if you are one of the teachers who mark the end of your term with a recital, this is the month where many tricky decisions to be made. Having an inclusive studio with many students with special needs and disabilities makes the process even trickier.
Since I love to see all my students, irrespective of their abilities, participate I try my best to encourage and persuade them as well as their parents to take part. After all, the recital is about the students and is a great educational tool rather than a marketing tool to make my studio look perfect and the performance flawless.
Here is why I believe that students with disabilities should get the chance and perform in the recital, even if their performance is going to be less than perfect and it will entail a lot more work on from the teacher:
Including students with special needs in your recitals will help your students feel included and welcome, especially that in other aspects of their lives they may feel excluded.
Recitals are a great opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and give them a chance to feel successful and show off their talents and strengths.
Performing in recitals is a wonderful opportunity for your students to experience genuine praise and this has a great impact on enhancing their self-esteem.
Recitals are a genuine demonstration to students with difficulties that they matter and their participation in musical activities are valued.
Including all students in your recital helps other typical students to respect diversity, which in turn creates a more welcoming environment for all.
Some challenges and difficult situations that you might find yourself in:
It is going to be challenging to maintain order and a quiet atmosphere for performance. a lot of planning ahead and proper seating needs to take place.
Expect some of the students with disabilities to decide to not perform at the very last minute, a day before, or even just when their names are called out.
Some students will have to leave early, as soon as they perform in order to prevent possibles meltdowns from over-stimulation.
Some students will need to come with their parents and cannot arrive prior to the recital time. So they will have no pre-recital preparation time at all.
Some students will need help during the performance. For example, some might need someone to point on the page while the student is performing.
How to plan for the best possible inclusive recital:
Hopefully, by the time of your recital you have already gotten to know your students well enough to anticipate their behaviors. That being said, you should still be open to unexpected surprises.
Here are some guidelines that are worth considering:
While planning the program, schedule first the students that you anticipate might not handle the noise and the busy environment very well. In addition, expect that you might have to do last-minute changes. Be flexible. Be supportive if these families need to leave early even while other students are performing.
If possible, have an older student be the helper if some of your students need help during his or her performance.
Have fidgety students sit with their parents during the recital so that their behavior doesn't become too disruptive to the other students.
Have the program printed out earlier and give it to the parents who will come together with their children exactly at the recital time so that they are completely ready and aware of their participation time.
It is completely fine if not everything goes as planned and you experience some unpleasant surprises.
Lastly, enjoy your big day! Students look forward to recitals and are a very rewarding and fun way to end their school year and show off their hard work and progress to their family and friends.