Friday, May 6, 2011

Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley uses music to teach everyday skills to learning-disabled students

SOUTH HADLEY – Behind a cluster of tall trees on Route 116 is a sunlit mansion that houses a lively and intriguing educational facility.

“Berkshire Hills is filled with music and positive attitude from one end of the day to the other,” said Gary Shaw, the new director of Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley.

The unusual post-secondary school celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

It serves students with learning disabilities caused by Asperger’s, Down and Williams syndromes, brain injury, cerebral palsy and other conditions

They don’t have to be musically gifted to enroll, but music is used to help them master the everyday demands of living.

“The skills they use for music transfer over to independent-living skills,” said Kristen B. Tillona, director of admissions at the school.

Students get two private music lessons a week. They are also taught fiocus, confidence, socieal engagement -- and such practical things as how to do laundry.

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