Their own tune

The bright colored tubes were smacked on music stands, the ground and hands to play “Jingle Bells.”

Special education students at Indian Creek middle and high schools played drums and bells to the famous Christmas tune and reviewed music note symbols in their twice-a-week music class.

This semester, educators at Indian Creek started a special education music class.

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Other schools in the county include some special education students in their bands and music classes. Four special education students play in the Indian Creek band.

Indian Creek is the only school that has a music class geared specifically for their special education students. Center Grove has developed a similar class that will begin in January.

The idea is that every student in the school district will have the ability to express themselves musically, Indian Creek band director Amy Heavilin said.

“Every kid needs a chance to express themselves creatively,” she said.

Getting started is a bit harder.

No set curriculum guides Heavilin through her twice weekly lessons like a Common Core class could for another music teacher. Heavilin uses elementary school music curricula as a loose guide toward what she teaches.

“It is flying by the seat of my pants,” she said.

The challenge is teaching the students who have different disabilities the same lesson, Heavilin said.

Some can’t read. Others don’t have full use of all of their limbs or have trouble hearing, she said.

Heavilin rotates lessons so that each student with different strengths get a lesson that is geared toward him or her.

“In general band classes, you don’t have that as much,” she said. “The thing that is common is you have to use all your senses.”

Part of the secret is finding a way to make most of what the students understand, she said.

Each type of note is color coded in Heavilin’s class, so students who can’t read can memorize colors of notes, she said.

When working on playing a piece of music, students are given large colored plastic sticks, funded by a grant from the Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson Educational Foundation.

Students bang the sticks on the ground or a music stand when the color note that corresponds with their stick is needed.

“If you can’t read notes or symbols, the colors are good,” she said.

Easy songs, such as “Jingle Bells,” are chosen to play, since most of the students know the song by heart, Heavilin said.

“’Jingle Bells,’ is a song they learned when they were little, so that was easy.”

Currently Indian Creek is the only school district who offers a specialized music class for special education students.

Other school districts teach special education students music with the rest of the school.

Carving out time for a special education music classes can be difficult and Heavilin’s availability of an hour twice a week is what prompted Indian Creek to allow her to teach a special education class.

Another instructor was added at the middle school because of band growth, freeing up Heavilin’s schedule.

She decided she wanted to teach the class to allow special education students to have their own class to learn music.

The class doesn’t cost the school district any money and supplies were bought with a $1,000 grant.

“If we could ensure the school district that there was no cost, they said ‘sure, do it,’” Heavilin said.