Dee Cucinotta is a learning specialist with a BA in Music and an MA in Special Education who gives piano instruction to children, adolescents and adults with exceptionalities (intellectual, communicative, sensory, behavioral, physical) including Down Syndrome, Autism, Aspergers, ADD/ADHD, PDD, TBI, SPD, learning disabilities and students with anxiety, focusing, fine motor skill and executive functioning deficits. Students do not need to have a background in music, they only need to be able to identify their numbers 1-5 and letters A-G.
Why a Special Education Music Teacher? Why not a music teacher with "experience" teaching kids with disabilities? Teachers who haven't taken coursework on disabilities are using only piano pedagogy and what general information they might have on the disability. Their primary tool is patience, hoping different musical approaches might work. Sometimes, this can do more harm than good, resulting in frustration and even turning children off to music. A Special Education Music teacher's approach combines both piano pedagogy and the most current knowledge about the disability (including medications or the lack of them) and how it affects learning to play the piano. This involves hand eye coordination, executive function, fine motor skills, sensory integration and more. Sound progress is made with less frustration and more independence, increasing both ability and self-confidence!
Dee creates an optimal learning environment for the unique and varying needs of each student. She strives to create an atmosphere where each student feels personally safe, listened to and valued and has a deep commitment to nurturing students' social-emotional learning. A personalized learning program is developed and implemented for each child based on the student's diagnosis and evaluations, strengths and weaknesses. These programs encompass learning to play the piano, while also addressing issues of anxiety, perfection, distractibility as well as learning disabilities, developmental delays, weak fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and executive functioning deficits. Each learning program addresses attention to task, visual sequencing, musical literacy, fine motor skills, balance and posture through musical instruction and repertoire. The immediate and consistent trust that she gains from parents and her ability to work collaboratively with other professionals allows each student, regardless of skill level, to develop as a musician and grow as a student and individual.
Students are also given the opportunity to perform at our Spring Recital, as members of our Creative Harmonies performance group (which has performed for the Autism Society Gala, at Proctor's Theatre, Puzzles Bakery and Cafe, Teresian House and more), or for students with sensory and other issues that cannot play in front of large audiences, our in-studio Summer Recital or online Holiday Recital. Students are provided with thorough performance preparation, as well as taught how to build performance repertoire.
Dee worked both as an aide and Special Education Music teacher for BOCES on Long Island, NY, teaching children with emotional and behavioral disorders, developmental delays, learning disabilities, Autism, ADHD, ADD, PDD and Down Syndrome. She was also a Special Education teacher for the New York City Board of Education and taught children with learning disabilities and behavioral issues.
She is a member of the CEC (Council for Exceptional Children), MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) and NYSMTA (New York State Music Teachers Association). She is the recipient of Steinway & Sons Top Teacher Award 2016 and The Arc of Rensselaer County 2010 Community Partners Award.
Dee is also the parent of two adult children, one of which is diagnosed with ADHD.