3 Top Tips for Teaching Drums to a Child with SEN



You know, teaching drums to many a child with SEN (Special Educational Needs) isn’t something I ever intended to do a lot of, yet I’ve had the opportunity to teach my fair share. Similarly, it’s also not something I ever expected to enjoy and have the patience for.

Now, my students like how patient I am, and my ability to break things down and explain them clearly. Of course, I take the compliment, yet I think it’s about acknowledging that people are wired differently. This, in my opinion, this makes for an effective teacher!


Teaching a child with SEN can be tons of fun!

I’ve worked with children on the Autistic spectrum, have Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, or have been partially blind. Yet there’s always fun to be had with a child with SEN. Lessons can be made fun and engaging with learning activities based on rhythm, coordination and sounds.

child with SEN

Whatever the student’s needs, it’s important to be flexible, think on your feet and be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes I find it’s much better to not have a plan. Just take it as it comes as you can always spin what catches the student’s eye into a relevant game.

So with that in mind, here are great tips which have been reinforced by experience which are worth sharing. These are particularly relevant if you’ve not formally trained in teaching a child with SEN, like myself.


#1. Be creative

As I mentioned before, being able to think on your feet is crucial. Similarly, whilst not having a lesson plan is useful, a long-term direction of skills to develop over time is crucial. That sense of direction will guide and inform you choice of activities.

The way I see it, creativity is strongly linked with the idea of long-term skill development. Try to understand how the child thinks and takes information in (see below). Try using the whole range of activities such as drawing, playing, listening, singing, moving / dancing, etc.

child with SEN


And, as far as creativity goes, I try to also not limit it to the activities but to the tools I use. These can include household items to make sounds, or things like the CHOPZzz drum pillowcase to have fun with.

teaching a child with sen

Using creative tools to make lessons engaging for students with SEN


#2. Make it a team effort

The better your understanding of the child with SEN, the better. And if the effort is collaborative team orientated with the parents / carers, even better! Working together with parents / carers is the best way to engage the child to ensure their development. In my experience, not only does this help set development goals and expectations, but engages the child from more than one positive influence!

Remember, sometimes it’s not about turning the student into the world’s next Jojo Mayer! Teaching basic co-ordination, exploring sounds, and helping in their general development through music is crucial in the child’s development.


#3. Be patient

Sometimes there’s a lot of messing around, and from a learning perspective, not much might get done on a particular session; that’s OK! Some sessions will be more productive than others. Just ensure to always try to keep the student engaged, and don’t lose focus. The way a child with SEN perceives the world at any given time might not be the same as yours, so keep an open mind. Be flexible and, above all, patient.

I hope this has been insightful and useful. If you’d like drum lessons for your child, learn more about my lessons here, and get in touch!

Nick 🙂

About Nick Schlesinger

I’m lucky to tour the UK and Europe with great artists and work on sessions in world-renowned studios such as Abbey Road Studios on some really cool projects. You can also find me playing covers gigs in and around London.

Education is a big part of my work, and I’m really passionate about helping drummers achieve their goals. Published by magazines like Modern Drummer (US) and Drummer (UK), I constantly add new educational content on my blog, and I frequently like to embark on various entrepreneurial projects.

Check out my drumming book: Concepts


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