High Five Choir for Youth of All Abilities

Jan 10, 2011
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“Don’t laugh at me
Don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
Deep inside, we’re all the same”


These are the lyrics to a song called “Don’t Laugh at Me” sang by the High Five Choir at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL.  The song is about how children with disabilities may be treated differently than their peers. Youth with developmental disabilities such as Autism, Down Syndrome and Noonan Syndrome are now sharing their love for music alongside their peers through the opportunity to participate in the High Five Choir.  But how did this school begin incorporating students with disabilities into performing arts and help make them feel accepted for who they are?

It all began when several music teachers felt as if they had done a disservice to students with disabilities; although they were present, they were not fully participating. In combination with several other teachers and therapists, the school began making music accessible. Music as therapy has been used for years to help children with developmental disabilities advance their cognitive, physical, communication, social, and emotional skills. It is an important learning tool as it is found attractive to almost everybody. These music teachers and therapists have created the most rewarding music program they knew how through the inclusion of youth  and the use of sign language, drawings, and instruments.

In each class, students with and without disabilities are partnered together to help with the coordination of the music. This allows the students with disabilities not only to participate but also to mature the more they took part in class activities.  Standing ovations can be seen at every performance given in the past five years. Students in the class are now called “differently-abled” instead of disabled and  as a result, both music learning and social barriers have been broken.

Author: Melissa



  • Rickwietsma

    This is an excellent way for the kids who are the mentors to realize how lucky they are. And, the special kids become more well rounded, confident and happier. Win-win.