Jiji Kikhia

“I can’t believe he’s doing it!” This is what a teacher in Level I of the EASE program said to me, as she watched one of her students, a nine-year old with autism, improvise perfectly on the beat with resonator bells, while his classmates pounded out the rhythm with toned tubes and rhythm sticks.  Her eyes radiated with pure astonishment and joy.  This partially-verbal child previously had great difficulties with focusing, cooperating, listening, expressing thoughts and feelings, controlling his motor skills, taking more than one thing into account at a time, and filtering sensory stimuli. Yet, there he was in front of his peers, fully attending to his task, listening and responding freely in time with the “band”, who held a steady beat to a pre-recorded track of music. This was the first day we had tried the activity with his class. The best part was that he played with a sense of pride and intention, and it sounded GREAT!

The reason the musical activity was so successful for the young boy, was not the activity itself, rather, it was specifically how the activity was presented: in a customized structure that he and his classmates could grasp. The EASE methodology is unique in its simplicity, flexibility and accessibility to teachers of all elementary school-age students with special needs. The material can be expanded, contracted, or modified to suit the situation. Through intensive professional development, both in and out of the classroom, by the second and third levels, teachers are integrating academic curriculum and lesson plans with arts-based activities and innovative scaffolding techniques. These are essential to enabling students of all cognitive abilities to achieve their social, behavioral and academic goals. For example, a teacher in Level III is using EASE movement activities to teach money values and prepositions. Another is teaching math and speech through musical composition techniques. A teacher in Level II is teaching social studies and nutrition units through murals and sculpture with found objects. The list goes on and on. Teachers are regularly amazed when they see a student engaging with another student: making eye contact, communicating through music, dance, drama, and visual art. Gradually, academic curriculum is folded into these creative activities, making learning accessible, engaging and fun. It’s “EASY”!

– Joan Merwyn

.@UAPNYC Blog: http://tinyurl.com/oj2l453