How has the program impacted students?

Our hand drum group provides a performance experience to part of the student population that normally doesn’t get such opportunities. They get a chance to showcase their abilities like never before. Not only is it an educational experience for the students; it’s fantastic for their families, too.

Parents and loved ones now have the opportunity to see their child succeed with other people. Students gain a sense of belonging, learn to help each other, and work towards the common goal of a performance with other kids.

See our Videos page for testimonials from participants and families.

Why use this method?

There are obvious academic benefits; it can reinforce studies in math, support speech development, enhance motor skills, and improve coordination. But most importantly, it gives them an identity. This is not a modified lesson or a watered-down version of a band or choir class.

This is a music teaching method created specifically for students with special needs so they can experience a group performance just like everyone else.


For Teachers

  • Fun, exciting educational activities
  • Easily adjusted for student ability level
  • Adapts to state standards and learning goals
  • Works for all age groups
  • Empowers student leadership
  • Connects to life skills

For Students

  • Learn more than just music
  • Build self-confidence
  • Strengthen hand-eye coordination
  • Strengthen motor control
  • Group working skills
  • Communication skills

About The Creator

Jim Howell Headshot

Jim Howell, M.Ed., B.M.E.

Jim Howell is the band director and music teacher at Osnaburg Local Schools in East Canton, Ohio. He started teaching in 1998 at Chagrin Falls EVSD in Ohio. In 2009, while teaching at Claymont City Schools in Uhrichsville, Ohio, Mr. Howell began developing a teaching method that includes a performance ensemble for students with special needs at the middle and high school levels. This ensemble provides opportunities to students who did not have a chance to participate in a musical performance in the past and has evolved into a great source of pride for participants and their families.

Mr. Howell also leads a music group at Advocates for Success, an organization that provides life skills training and vocational programs for adults with disabilities in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Mr. Howell is the author of the book A Special Need for Music and is the creator of the online lesson program Learn With Drums. Mr. Howell and his students were featured in the documentary film “922 From Academic Watch to Academic Wow!” and have appeared several times in the Times Reporter Ohio newspaper.

Mr. Howell has presented his teaching methods at professional conferences for both special education and music educators in Ohio, such as:

• Ohio Music Education Association Professional Development Conference 2024
• Milestones National Autism Conference 2023
• Ohio Music Education Association District 8 Mini-Conference 2023
• Texas Autism Conference 2022
• Milestones National Autism Conference 2022
• OCALICONLINE 2021 Artist Spotlight
• Milestones National Autism Conference 2021
• Ohio Music Education Association District 8 Mini-Conference 2013

In 2020, Mr. Howell became a Toca Percussion Artist. He was also selected to be on The Milestones Conference committee in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Mr. Howell received the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities “Better Together Award” in 2022.

Mr. Howell holds a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Ashland University and a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Bowling Green State University.

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