Universal Design for Learning: Special Educators Integrating Orff Approach Into Their Teaching – Kimberly McCord

Ειδικό Τεύχος 5 (2) 2013 – Article

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Universal Design for Learning: Special Educators Integrating Orff Approach Into Their Teaching

Kimberly McCord

(pp. 188-193)


Music and the arts are powerful tools for reaching children with severe disabilities. Most often music educators and therapists are the professionals responsible for working with students with disabilities through music. Special educators sometimes use music to complement their teaching if they are comfortable modelling for their students. This article describes two special educators in the Chicago, Illinois Public Schools and their process of learning to integrate music into their curriculum as part of a semester-long project. Students in the project came from two schools (one high school and one K-8 elementary school) in low-income neighbourhoods. Two teachers were introduced to the Orff approach by using rhythmic speech and un-pitched percussion. The Orff approach naturally uses principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The focus of UDL is providing a flexible means of presentation, expression and engagement (Rose & Meyer 2006) This article will highlight examples of UDL and how, through this process, I learned how to better implement UDL with students who have severe disabilities. Guidance and collaboration with special educators is essential for music educators and therapists to learn how to better sequence tasks for students with severe intellectual disabilities. Students with autism presented challenges with an inability to maintain focus to learn and some students had a lack of speech, which made it impossible for students to sing or to perform rhythmic chants in typical ways.


Universal Design for Learning (UDL); Orff-Schulwerk; special educators


Kimberly McCord is Professor of Music Education at Illinois State University. She is the past chair of the ISME Commission on Music in Special Education, Music Therapy and Music Medicine and the founder and past chair of the National Association for Music Education Special Research Interest Group on Children with Exceptionalities. She was a teaching artist at the Henry Viscardi School for Students with Physical Disabilities 2006-2008. She is on the Board of the International Society for Music Education (ISME). Her research focuses on music assistive technology, collaboration between music and special educators, jazz and improvisational thinking in children.

Email: kamccor@ilstu.edu