Hassadna’s unique music program offers young people with disabilities a course of study adapted to their special needs, while enabling their inclusion into the larger student body.
Hassadna’s music program for children with special needs was founded in 2002, in cooperation with ALUT (The Israeli Society for Children and Adults with Autism). Fifteen children are enrolled in the program, including children with autism, Down’s Syndrome, developmental delays, cerebral palsy and blindness, in individual therapeutic instrument instruction. For these special children, who are challenged daily by their physical and mental limitations, music becomes the ultimate door to communication, expression and true happiness!
Background and Benefits
Music therapy is a well-established discipline that uses music as a therapeutic stimulus to achieve non-musical treatment goals. Research supports parallels between speech and singing, rhythm and motor behavior, memory for song and memory for academic material. Furthermore, music can enhance mood, attention and behavior to optimize the student’s ability to learn and interact. Therefore, the purpose of music therapy in special education is to provide students with melodic and rhythmic strategies which can then be generalized and transferred to other learning environments.
How our program works
Students are enrolled in individualized instrument instruction as both a therapeutic intervention as well as a way to develop their musical talents. Hassadna is the only conservatory in Israel which offers individualized music lessons for special needs children who have the ability to gain pleasure and benefit from playing an instrument.
Faculty members from different departments of the Conservatory instruct students in this program while receiving additional training to prepare them for this challenging but enormously rewarding role. Our Program Coordinator maintains on-going and contact with the children, their families and their instructors to monitor each child’s needs and musical process.
Our goal is to match each special needs student with a student in Hassadna’s regular student body to play together in chamber ensembles and concerts. Creating music together is extremely beneficial for all involved. Our students learn to listen to each other, to accept each others limitations and uniqueness, and to value the contribution offered by each member of the group.
At Hassadna, uniquely, children who are usually limited to the education system for disabled children are integrated into the general community. As they make music together and play for each other, they develop bonds based on their mutual love of music.
Financial aid for our music program for children with special needs is determined by a financial committee based on an in-depth evaluation of each family’s economic situation. We recognize the enormous financial toll a special needs child can have on a family, and therefore seek donations for financial aid for all of our special needs students.
A teacher’s perspective
“When I work with children within what is considered to be the normal spectrum of development, I have a general sense of their overall growth. Students who actively participate in lessons and practice regularly at home will reach a certain level over time. I can, more or less, predict that they will accomplish basic tasks such as proper hand motion for producing a good tone, finger articulation, learning scales, chords, and more. In the case of the special-needs child, the whole picture changes. Perhaps he is blind and I can only reach him by developing his ear and hand coordination. Perhaps she can read notes competently but is so emotionally blocked that she completely resists learning. Perhaps he is the sweetest person in the world and happily participates with me but just finding a note – for him it’s like climbing Mt. Everest.” How do I approach the challenges they pose? “The process of learning to do so is both fascinating and thrilling. My ‘weaponry’ in this battle involves the entirety of my musicality, my teaching experience, my life experience, and the joy I feel in searching for new ideas and developing creative solutions. With my help, these wonderful children attain musical lives that would otherwise be inaccessible for them. Music lights up their lives because it touches so many places found in the deepest human experience and becomes an integral part of them. I regard each student as a human being with the potential to develop. I work with them as they are, not trying to put them into form or making them as society wants them to be. I make them believe that they are all right just as they are. I try to give them some happiness and share with them my love for music.” Deborah Schramm, piano teacher.
A fellow student’s perspective
Shani, a student who plays in an integrated ensemble with children from our special needs program, had this to say:
“Working with Lea always raises my spirits. Coming to rehearsal with her after a long day, she always reminds me why we do what we do – because we love music. I always learn so much from her about choosing to follow our hearts and to overcome all barriers in order to fulfill our dreams.”
Dina, the mother of Yotam, a student with Cerebral Palsy, says:
“When you have a special child at home, daily life is never the same as for others. There is a tendency for everything to be special. But here at the Conservatory, my child experiences a life of healthy normalcy; an experience of being an equal among equals. If he is allowed to improvise, he suddenly bursts out with life… he expresses everything from within his heart without restraint. He is always restrained by structure, he is restrained by a wheelchair. But then, for a moment, he has the chance to breathe, to improvise! He has a music teacher, he has his music lessons from the Conservatory, he is like all the other students his age. When I see Yotam playing the piano it’s like a dream. A dream I never dared to dream.”
Rasha grew up as a blind orphan with severe autism and mental retardation. Abandoned by her parents as a baby, Rasha was raised in an orphanage. The orphanage’s founder observed Rasha’s exceptional love of music and brought her to us. From that moment on, a unique relationship was established between her and her teacher Schramm Deborah. Deborah tells us: “My heart leaps with joy to have the privilege of helping this fascinating student develop. When one considers that without music, Rasha falls apart emotionally, one can only stand in awe of the power of music.” For Rasha, coming to her beloved piano lessons, playing chamber music and participating in concerts are the high points of her life and moments of true happiness.