Special Needs Policy for Homeschool Choirs

We are a small program that’s still somewhat in startup mode, and unfortunately, we are generally not in a good position from which to accommodate special needs singers very well. As it is, we have a high success rate in maintaining an orderly and efficient atmosphere in the rehearsals, and we consider that one of the best things about our program. This particular strength of our institutional culture comes at a cost, however. That is, that even among those who are not considered to have special needs, not all are good candidates for our courses. This is on account of not being yet developed/matured enough to comply satisfactorily with our Code of Conduct.

Here’s the Code of Conduct for your consideration:

Now, having said all that, we realize that developmental psychology is hardly an exact science–and we’ve had more than one singer “on the spectrum” do well in our ensembles. It is a question, then, of “how much?” That is, of how much and how often any particular singer will present an unruly disruption to the class experience. Many high-functioning singers with various conditions turn out not to have any “special needs” at all in our classes, providing no disruptions at all. So, it comes down to a judgment call, based in part on best guesses from past behavior.

In cases where the parents just aren’t sure what to expect, the most sensible thing may be to give it a true at the first rehearsal, to see how it goes. Then we can consult afterward to see if we agree that moving forward is a win/win.

We sympathize with and respect the situation of special needs families, and we regret that we are not in a position to help in whatever special ways that your singers might need. We also ask that you sympathize with and respect our situation, too, and that you resist the temptation to try to sneak in a singer with known issues without having a frank and straightforward discussion with us about it in advance. While it’s tempting to keep the facts to oneself in hope that it might work out well, our experience has been that it generally causes more difficulty for everybody as the situation is eventually discovered for what it is. So please don’t hesitate to tell us right up front, “We’re not sure, so could we just give it a try?”

And please understand one more difficult we face. If we take on a policy of enrolling singers with borderline behaviors that might seem to be “not that bad” in any particular case, we run into a situation you might not anticipate: we may experience the cumulative effects of low-level disruptions from multiple borderline singers, potentially even manifesting all at once—and even with possible undesirable interactions between various special-needs students. This is what forces us into a “nip it in the bud” position. Indeed, this is why we set the barre so high with our non-special-needs student population, putting them in time-out (on the rare occasions that such is necessary), or even removing them from enrollment when habitual patterns of disruption become apparent.

In short, it is the disruption and disorderliness that is at issue here, and not the special needs that may prompt such disruption. We hope that this adequately explains our policy, and we welcome any questions or comments you may have. You may contact Jack Pelham here.