Boston Conservatory is unique among performing arts colleges for its dedication to providing arts experiences for individuals with special needs. It was the first performing arts college to offer private music lessons to individuals on the autism spectrum (2007) and the first school in Boston to present autism-friendly performances (2013). It was also the first conservatory in the nation to launch graduate training programs specifically in music education and autism (2015).
Through its programs for students on the autism spectrum, Boston Conservatory offers a number of educational programs and opportunities for individuals of all ages with autism spectrum disorders. These programs, which range from private music lessons to Autism-Friendly Performances of the school's mainstage productions, are designed to provide a safe, welcoming environment in which participants can nurture a life-long involvement in the arts—as creators or audience members. All program instructors receive rigorous training and extensive support from a professional consultation team in order to work effectively with individuals on the autism spectrum.
In 2015, Boston Conservatory earned an UP Organization designation by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for its work “helping students on the autism spectrum develop their creativity and fulfill their potential as artists and learners.” UP organizations are recognized for making a significant commitment to learn about, take action, and embrace inclusivity as a core organizational value.
Private Music Lessons (ages 9–adult)
The first-of-its-kind conservatory program pairs students on the autism spectrum with Boston Conservatory music education graduate students and alumni for weekly lessons.
Music Class for Young Children (ages 3–8)
This "mommy and me"-style program is taught by graduate students and alumni of The Boston Conservatory's music education program and allows parents to introduce young children on the autism spectrum to music.
Inner Harmony Chorus (all ages)
A vocal ensemble for individuals on the autism spectrum and their family and friends that runs for 10 weeks and is conducted by a team of graduate students from The Boston Conservatory's music education program.
Step by Step! Dance Class (ages 8–14)
Step by Step! is a dance program for children on the autism spectrum—and a new session for children with Down syndrome will be offered starting in spring 2017. Children ranging in age from 6 to 14 will learn the basics of dance while incorporating social skills, and the use of imagination and personal expression. The program is designed to accommodate 10 children per session, allowing for more individualized attention and focus. Children will dance to live music in a relaxed, fun environment.
Each year, the Conservatory Connections program hosts an Autism-Friendly Performance (AFP) of one of its mainstage shows. These performances are open to anyone in the public on the autism spectrum and their families.
Resources for Teachers and Professionals
Annual Conference for Teaching Music to Students on the Autism Spectrum
An innovative resource for public and private school music educators, the two-day event addresses important topics, such as:
Current Research in Autism
Strategies for Teaching Music to Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
How Autistic People Learn and Perceive Music
Working Effectively with Students on the Autism Spectrum and their Families
Conservatory Graduate Training Programs in Music and Autism
Boston Conservatory at Berklee offers two first-of-their-kind training programs for those interested in specializing in teaching music to students on the autism spectrum:
For more information on music programs and professional resources contact Rhoda Bernard.
For more information on dance programs and Autism-Friendly Performances contact Kim Haack.