Sunday, July 8, 2012

iPad band unlocks autistic students' creativity in New York City school

From FOX News:

They’ve got the beat.

At first listen you would never know that music created at a New York City school was being played by students with special needs, nor that they were using iPads as instruments.

Music teacher Adam Goldberg has successfully integrated the iPad into his class, creating an iPad band of talented musicians at P177Q, a school for special-needs students based in Queens.

“Some of the students in this school who are very low functioning, are really making music,” Goldberg tells

Most of Goldberg’s students are on the Autism Spectrum and often have difficulty communicating, socializing and concentrating. Yet, with an iPad in front of them, they have been able to play complex music compositions like "Space Circus" by Chick Corea, a famous jazz composer.

Servicing more than 500 students, each with their own special need, Principal Kathy Posa points out that each “has their own personality, so it’s up to us to find what works best for each child.”

The iPad's intuitive ease of use enables the students to get past the technical hurdles and steep learning curves of traditional instruments so they can start expressing themselves through music straight away.
“So many barriers are broken,” Goldberg says.

And beyond the physical constraints the iPad has helped lift, Goldberg says he's witnessed a social phenomenon occur in his classroom. Students who traditionally had issues communicating their wants or needs seemed to suddenly be unlocked by their music, expressing themselves creatively. "I see them supporting each other. They compliment each other. They help each other out," Goldberg told "It is just magical, really a beautiful thing to see."

Because of these small miracles, Posa has been an advocate for the arts in spite of budget cuts, highlighting the undeniable benefits the programs have, especially with children who have extraordinary needs.

“We use anything we can to make them creative, and it helps with their behavior as well, reinforcing them to the point that they know they can do something, making it less frustrating for them as well,” Posa told

Witnessing some of the magic firsthand, student Jason Haughton, who is not usually very vocal, did not want to let go of the microphone when introducing himself on camera. In the same way, the iPad has become a voice for all of the students.

Normally assisted, Haughton later opened up an app on his iPad to play his instrument -- all on his own.
PS177’s digital orchestra has not only learned long pieces of music, but has also produced their own spontaneous compositions.

“These students are learning to work together," Posa told "They are learning to share, and to cooperate, and to be like a team, because that’s what is really going on when people play music together. It’s like a team.”

The students jam out using Garageband, Apple's popular music app, along with a variety of other apps like Animoog, MIDI Touch, Thumbjam, Bloom and Trope.