University of Hertfordshire

Learning a musical instrument can benefit a child with special educational needs

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


  • Alice Jones Bartoli
  • Pamela Heaton
  • Dawn C. Rose
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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2018
EventMusic, selves and society: The roles of music in effecting change.
: A Workshop at the Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, 25-26 June 2018
- Centre for Music and Science at the Faculty of Music , Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Jun 201826 Jun 2018


ConferenceMusic, selves and society: The roles of music in effecting change.
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Abstract for: Music, selves and society: The roles of music in effecting change. Authors: Rose, D.,1 Jones Bartoli, A.,2 & Heaton, P.2 1 Department of Psychology and Sport Sciences, University of Hertfordshire, U.K. 2 Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, U.K. Corresponding Author: Dawn Rose, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Title: Learning a musical instrument can benefit a child with special educational needs Abstract Objectives This study explores outcomes related to musical learning in a child with complex special educational needs in a mainstream school. CB is a boy who was eight-years-old at the start of the study, and who was diagnosed with co-morbid Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Sensory Processing Difficulties, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia during the study. Methods This is a mixed methods study considering the concomitant development of cognitive, behavioural and social-emotional skills which have been associated with musical learning. CB was evaluated on a battery of developmental measures before and after one academic year of music lessons. The measures included musical aptitude, intelligence, memory, executive function, fine and gross motor abilities. The mother and form teacher provided quantitative behavioural data relating to social-emotional wellbeing. The tenor horn tutor provided qualitative data about CB’s music lessons. Results At pretesting CB obtained a high musical aptitude score and an average IQ score. However, his scores on tests measuring motor abilities, memory, executive function, and social-emotional skills were low. Post-testing revealed large improvements in CB’s fluid intelligence and motor skills, though no change in memory or executive function. Though teacher and parent reports suggested a decline in his social-emotional functioning, his musical progress was slow but good. CB’s scores were compared to a group musical learning study. This provided some contextual generalizability of the general benefits of musical learning, but also illustrated specific areas in which CB’s learning difficulties impacted on his musical learning and, potentially, vice versa. Conclusion This case study reveals how musical learning can provide amelioration for some impairments of developmental disorders, specifically in terms of the positive effect on motor development. The mixed methods approach helps us understand how important the interaction between the opportunities provided by the school and the engagement of the family were in this case. Similarly, the flexible and sensitive teaching approach, and the relationship with the student, especially engaging the student in finding appropriate solutions to learning obstacles, was crucial. CB played a solo in the end of year music festival and is still playing the tenor horn.

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