Music Making A Difference

by Ann Conolly with Janet Soller and Karen Wallace

Published by: Alpha Major, 2011
50 pages





Music Making a Difference: Students with Learning Challenges
Publication: American Music Teacher (Magazine/Journal)
Date: February 1, 2014
Publisher: Music Teachers National Association, Inc.
Volume: 63    Issue: 4    Page: 55(2)

"Drawing on her experience as a learning disabilities specialist, Ann Conolly provides a wealth of information and insight into the struggles and challenges facing children with learning difficulties. She has created a useful reference manual for music teachers dealing with learning-challenged students, in collaboration with music educators Soller and Wallace.

The authors divide the book into four major sections. In the first two sections, they provide a broad overview of learning differences and the characteristics of major learning issues such as dyslexia and sensory integration disorder. The final two sections focus on communicating the benefits of music instruction, interviewing prospective students and preparing for students with learning challenges. Throughout the sections, quick summaries, lists or ideas are included beside the text in colored boxes. Additionally, ample space is available for personal note taking. Each section concludes with possible book club discussion questions for music educators groups that may consider using this manual as part of their activities.

The authors include several tables throughout the book listing various characteristics of a particular learning challenge. They also incorporate examples of how that trait would manifest itself during a music lesson and suggestions on how to help the student work through that challenge. I found these tables particularly enlightening and useful. They are well organized and can be used as an easy and convenient reference.

The authors' also provide information on how to interview prospective students and approach a parent if you are concerned about a learning problem. Conolly even provides a sample vision screening survey to use if one suspects a vision issue. Although we can investigate the causes and characteristics of different learning challenges, I am wary of music educators using surveys or checklists to help parents determine whether their child possibly has a learning issue. These resources are informative, but I wish Conolly stressed that her materials are not to be used as a diagnostic tool.

The most thought-provoking aspect of this book is the authors' unwavering belief that music is for every child, even those with learning challenges. They also emphasize that music has a nourishing effect on the brain, especially for those with learning challenges. This book is an empowering read for teachers taking on the challenge of educating learning disabled children."

-Reviewed by Amanda Montgomery
Orangeburg, South Carolina



April is DEAR month, time to Drop Everything And READ! There are so many reasons to read aloud to and with your children...

I'm going to think of ten reasons right here:

  1. Children love to snuggle close or just sit near their parents and have that undivided attention and time.
  2. The sound of Mom's or Dad's voice is reassuring and calming to children, feeding their souls.
  3. Hearing parents read and sounding out words themselves develops early language, including auditory processing skills.
  4. Listening and comprehending are  necessary skills that is grow when children hear parents read interesting books to them.
  5. Exploring the library together and bringing home stacks of books helps you get to know and develop your child's interests.
  6. Reading good quality books opens up new worlds to your child.
  7. Children who read about other countries and cultures become more accepting of new people and new ideas.
  8. Books shared give new topics of conversation while riding in the car or having meals together.
  9. For older children, shared reading and discussion cultivates higher level thinking skills and good working vocabularies.
  10. Learning to read that longer book develops powers of concentration and a sense of accomplishment.
  11. We learn to write well by reading many books by gifted writers. Strong readers are therefore better at expressing themselves in writing.

There! I gave eleven reasons, and I could go on, but my new books are calling... I'm going to drop everything and read tonight!

As soon as Spring Break is over, parents start calling for summer reading camps or programs. It's important to choose carefully. What will be the most effective training in a short amount of time for a struggling or a reluctant reader?  If the child hasn't caught on already to the best teaching practices of well-meaning teachers, does this young one need more of the SAME?  How to improve this picture?

Some struggling readers have undiagnosed auditory processing problems. That is, the hearing may be perfect but the brain isn't getting a good message from the neural pathways of the inner ear. This problem must be addressed well in order for reading skills and social confidence to develop. Yes, auditory processing has everything to do with learning to read well and with developing self-confidence!

Other struggling readers have a right-brain approach to a left-brain activity.  That is, they look at each separate word as an object to be memorized, as we would look at a lizard or a sandwich. We don't scan those from left to right - one glance and we recognize the object. But with words and sentences, getting the information necessitates automatically scanning rapidly from left to right and knowing the sound codes of our language. It's about the SOUNDS. We can't just tell a child how to do this; it must be explicitly taught and habits trained.

When I teach reading, the mother or dad is always at the table with us. I teach the parents how to reinforce the new knowledge and practices at home, so the time and effort spent with Miss Ann at Austin Learning solutions is very effective.

If you even think your child is beginning to struggle, get the jump on that before a negative attitude toward reading sets in. Two of my current students (1st and 2nd graders) couldn't read "Fat cat sat," last semester, and neither could sit still to pay attention for a lesson. Both children can sit and focus for their lessons now and have made fast reading progress. They are enjoying reading, and their families are very happy with the results.  (More about the sitting and focusing successes in the next blog!)

dyslexie fontThis is so interesting!  A graphic designer at the University of Twente in the Netherlands has designed a special font to make reading easier for dyslexic children and adults. Read the article here.

You can see examples of dyslexie and download the font (free of charge for home use) here:

This morning I found this in my inbox:

"Hi Ann!!! Exciting news!!! After a couple of days in the educational doldrums, R. has popped up this morning with better attention and has grappled with hard concepts with comparative ease! She even made a clever deduction about how to find the area of a cylinder! We've studied how to find the area of a circle, and the area of a right solid, and she must have put that info together and deduced how to find the area of a cylinder! Blew me away! That's not the kind of "link" she usually gets on her own!!!!!!!!"

This is for a girl who has attention and reasoning issues and has been using an Integrated Listening Systems' Focus program for a few months. Her progress has been consistent, and I'm always delighted to see this type of response, as the changes usually show up more subtly.

Yesterday I attended another sound therapy seminar, always adding to my understanding of the changes this therapy can produce in our brains and our behaviors.  Sound frequency zones, applied through bone conducted sound, can have profound effects on auditory processing, and therefore on reading and comprehension, on focus and attention and on executive function skills.  Balance and coordination and memory are also positively affected, so this can be a very helpful program for aging brains. It has sure helped me! Going to put my headphones on now...

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