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Teaching Music to Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Understanding and Perspectives

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Pamela Burnard.

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According to the U.S. National Centers for Disease Control, Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability. 1 out of 88 births result in a diagnosis within the Autism spectrum. As a result of this increasing population, music teachers are faced with an increasing number of children with autism included in their classrooms. This session will focus on understanding the challenges and providing appropriate learning opportunities for children with autism based on the Dr. Hourigan’s research in the field. Dr. Hourigan will suggest strategies for music teaching and learning, finding resources, communication, cognition, sensory needs as well as building relationships with special education professionals.


Ryan Hourigan joined the faculty at Ball State University in the fall of 2006 after nine years of teaching instrumental and vocal music at the secondary and university level. Dr. Hourigan holds degrees from Eastern Illinois University (B.M.), Michigan State University (M.M. Wind Conducting) and a Ph.D. in Music Education from The University of Michigan. He currently teaches music education and is the Associate Director of the School of Music at Ball State University. His research interests include teaching music to students with special needs, the preparation of preservice music teachers, professional development for music teachers, and preservice music teacher identity development. Dr. Hourigan has been published in some of the most important music education journals and has presented at state and national conferences. Currently in its third printing, Dr. Hourigan is the co-author of Teaching Music to Students with Special Needs: A Label-free Approach (2011). Hourigan and Hammel’s second book Teaching Music to Students with Autism will be released in the spring of 2013 with Oxford University Press. In 2009, Dr, Hourigan co-founded the Prism Project. This program provides an opportunity for Ball State students to gain skills in the area of teaching students with special needs ( His is currently working on his second text with Oxford University Press (along with Alice Hammel) on teaching music to children with autism.

This talk is part of the Arts, Culture and Education series.

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