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Psychological Aspects of the Inclusion of Children with Cognitive Disabilities Living in an Orphan Boarding House in Musical Creative Work

52 (2021) Editor: Antoaneta Nikolova
Natalija Grigorievna Tagiltseva, Lidiya Zdravkova Tsvetanova-Churukova


Natalija Grigorievna Tagiltseva

Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences, Professor, Head of department

"Music Education" of the Ural State Pedagogical University, Institute of Music and Art Education, Rossia


Lidiya Zdravkova Tsvetanova-Churukova

Associate Professor, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences

Southwest University "Neofit Rilski", Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria




Introduction. Today, globalization poses new challenges to humanity as a whole and to each individual, among which stand out the psychological problems of development and entry into society of people with cognitive disorders. These are some specific disorders in psychological development: the development of speech and language, school skills, motor functions, or some generalized developmental disorders. Often these are children with sensory disorders, for instance, impaired hearing or vision.

The questions about the appearance of children with cognitive disorders, regarding their mental state today are especially acute, both in psychological science and in pedagogical psychology. They are discussed at many forums and conferences, in scientific and methodological seminars as well, including those related to globalization, published in the field of psychology, cognitive psychology, the psychology of creativity.

Statistics on children with cognitive disorders and distemper appearance show an increase in their number, their number in almost all countries around the world. The reasons for recent manifestations of the dynamics of birth rates in children can be different: it is a bad environment, the aging of first-born women, the spread of drugs among young people who are not yet married, increasing the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and others, constant stress, many infectious diseases.

Many researchers have discussed the education of these children, they also agree that the children evolve successfully in families, with the support of close relatives and parents (Guseva, 2016). However, children with cognitive disabilities, often end up in orphanages. In many countries, as the same statistics show, children with cognitive disabilities are often abandoned directly by their parents in hospitals at birth, abandoned, and then placed in a specialized orphanage (Kirpu, 2018).

The major direction analysis concerning the children's upbringing made it possible to highlight the following pattern - all activities, entertainment, cultural events held in the orphanage are aimed primarily at socialization and including the child as a full person in social relations. A young child, whether a student in an orphanage or raised in a family, should be systematically involved in both play and creative activities. They can, of course, be aimed at the socialization and adaptation of the child in social relations, but such activities should give the child pleasure and satisfaction. In this regard, music or artistic creativity is especially promising for children with cognitive disabilities - the purpose of which is primarily the emergence of a child from an orphanage a sense of joy, pleasure, and interest in creativity.

Theoretical and methodological literature analysis

The problem of the psychological state and development of children with cognitive disabilities living in an orphanage has been considered by many researchers. Thus, many authors (Kirpu, 2018; Makeeva, Sirotina, 2019; Plotnikova, 2018) emphasize that the social and cultural rehabilitation of the child should be carried out actively in the orphanage, during which he learns the norms of life and behavior in society, learns to self-care. , to communicate with people and peers. Another point of view is the need for adaptation of children with cognitive disabilities (Akulina, 2019), taking into account their psychological and individual characteristics. The creation of such an adaptive environment allows us to solve one of the modern global problems - to socialize the child, to be included in a certain social environment (Yarskaja-Smirnova, 2018). The position of some authors on the development of children with cognitive disabilities addresses the issue of their social integration, which is understood as a special, special form of socialization of children with such disorders, uniting all children and supporting them in a single educational space (Valerievna, 2015; Karadgova, 2018; Makeeva, Sirotina, 2019; Makintayar, Deponio, 2015; Oskelford).


        Analyzing the authors` positions, we can conclude that all of them, despite the different approaches to the interpretation of the development of children with cognitive disabilities emphasize the need for socio-cultural rehabilitation in this process, creating an environment to adapt to a particular society, integration into the social space. Everything aims at the optimal course of the process of their socialization, which in the most general form is presented as the child's mastery of social norms of behavior and activity.

        This dominant line in the orphanages` activities for children with cognitive disabilities leaves a certain imprint on all other activities of children. Therefore, when involved in these other ancillary activities, the goal is the same - socialization of the child. If we analyze the work dedicated to the musical creativity of children (Makeeva, Sirotina, 2019), it becomes clear that this creativity is not provided to the child as something valuable, which brings him satisfaction and joy, but is a certain means of his socialization. In this regard, the question arises how psychologically comfortable can be the life of a child in an orphanage with endless work on his socialization? We shall turn in connection with this question to the psychologists` work. For example, Plotnikova notes: “Today, in many boarding schools, children continue to live in a scarce, almost practically sterile sensory environment. Life is planned for the whole group” (Plotnikova, 2018, p. 354), but not for every child, distinguished by his individual mental characteristics. Each orphanage for children with cognitive disabilities is a closed institution, isolated from visits by other children and adults, so that the saturation with emotional events and interesting things in the homes is minimal. Is it possible to create this psychological comfort in the life of a child with cognitive disorders in an orphanage, when his life due to the closed nature of such homes is monotonous and scarce of emotions? A solution to this problem can be achieved by involving such children in creativity, which according to psychologists provides an opportunity for each person to create an element of novelty that brings him joy. Specific educational conditions are required for children from mild to moderate mental retardation. For the transformation of their educational environment, it is important to use modern information technologies, which allow children with varying degrees of mental retardation to "go" outside the boarding school and to enrich their ideas about the surrounding reality. Through them and various musical activities, these children begin to hear and recognize the sounds of the world, to get acquainted with various objects that have their own voice, to learn to pronounce words correctly, singing songs and listening to music.


Experimental results


In our research activities, which took place between the walls of an orphanage for children with mental retardation in the city of Yekaterinburg (Russia), we based on the ideas of the Russian psychologist dealing with the problems of the psychology of art and education - A.A. Melik-Pashaev (2013). This author, together with his colleagues, proved that a mental feature is a creative activity that exists and manifests itself in every child. Therefore, the desire and desire for creativity is found in children at early preschool age. In addition, the same author argues that this desire for creativity is inherent in only one living being - man. Relying on the positions of this psychologist and his colleagues, we had to get an answer to the question of the creative potential of children with limited cognitive development. For this, we have chosen a certain type of artistic activity - musical creativity.

Younger adolescents were included in the group of children, а subject to a diagnostic study that revealed the degree of predisposition to musical creativity. As the learning process of such children involves small groups, 7 children were included in one group and 7 children in the other. The psychological characteristics of the children were some of them being afraid of another (unknown to them) person, some had underdeveloped verbal abilities and could not speak at all, others were afraid of failing the task, and others, on the contrary, showed complete detachment and disinterest in music lessons.

We did not choose the musical activity randomly. Music is the brightest kind of art that strongly affects a person emotionally. In a piece of music, its rhythmic and tempo basis contributes to the formation of an emotional response. Tempo, dynamics, rhythm influence the formation of a certain mood.

The main tasks that could be solved by using the musical impact technique and correction are the following:

1. Support the non-verbal communication of the person, thanks to which several symptoms of inappropriate behavior are overcome.

2. They move the emotional sphere of the individual. Suppress manifested depressive emotional states.

3. Optimize motor functions. Achieves a certain degree of movement coordination in vegetatively and psycho-somatically determined behavioral anomalies.

4. Orient the student to introspection and comprehension of reality through the prism of aesthetic values.

5. Support the integrative processes in the group and overcoming the isolation and alienation of students.

In the pedagogy of music education, the works of such authors, proclaiming the rhythmic development of the young child as a factor for the development of his entire musical culture, as well as his musical abilities, are widely known and demanded. Ideas for the importance of rhythmic education for children with developmental problems were proclaimed by R. Steiner, who introduced a special type of activity in the educational system of the Wolfdorf schools - eurythmy (2012). The rhythmic proportionality of poetry and music sets students from such schools to embody the rhythm in movement, in dance. In the musical systems of C. Orff, E. Dalcroze, the rhythm of music influencing the child is this important component that helps not only the development of children's musical abilities but also their entire musical culture.

Based on these ideas, we conducted a diagnostic study of predisposition and, most importantly, the desire of children with cognitive disabilities to participate in musical activities. For us, this result seemed important, because, in case of a positive result, it would be possible to build a series of special classes in music and rhythm training for such children.

The techniques of musical psychocorrection used by us are: receptive (passive), on the one hand, related to cathartic, vegetative-harmonizing and communication effect, and on the other hand, productive (active), in which children play music themselves, related to motor or instrumental improvisations, with dance group musical psychocorrection. In the second type of technique through effective musical activity, the children recreate the music in movements, approach creatively in the various improvisations, acquire musical-rhythmic skills. In practice, the children's musical-performing creativity cannot be neglected, enriching the motor expression of the children, counteracting the group disintegration, developing their creative imagination.

It is important for children living in isolation to enrich their ideas about the sound objects in the surrounding reality, which was achieved with the help of Smart Board. As a result, they began to successfully identify non-musical sounds. Images of a train, cars, bells, clocks, animals - cows, cuckoos, frogs, roosters, etc. were presented on the screen. Along with the demonstration of the pictures, the children perceived the sounds characteristic of the object or animal is shown on the screen. After the exercises, they were assigned the task of establishing compliance - after listening to a sound to find the object to which it corresponds. The second series of exercises was to determine musical sounds using the interactive whiteboard. After listening to music, a drawing of a musical instrument is selected, then it is inserted into a square on the board. Exercises for rhythmic accompaniment of children's musical instruments to musical works were also included. Another exercise involved the use of mnemonic schemes - drawings of song characters, some objects to which the song refers, which are shown to them on the interactive whiteboard, in parallel with the sound. According to the mnemonic scheme and the sounding melody of a song, the children had to guess the song, memorize its words, and then perform it with the teacher.

The series of experiments we performed included many works, during which the child showed certain reactions. It was suggested that the positive result could be the basis for the development of special music lessons and music projects with developmental value, in which children with cognitive disorders will actively participate. For the experiment, the children from both groups were presented with different musical works for perception, in which the rhythmic effects were visible and those in which this rhythmic component was not so noticeable (these are folk songs at a slow and time-consuming pace, which they have in the musical culture of every nation). It should be noted that all children, after listening to rhythmic music, tried to make musical movements to it. Even those who used wheelchair around the orphanage moved their hands. Children with mild cognitive impairments, alone, without the experimenter's advice, chose children's noise instruments that were placed in front of them while the music was playing. In each group, however, some children showed an indifferent attitude to the sounding music. One child, with all his appearance, was interested not in music, in very different objects - in parts of the chair, in the tableware, but not in the music. Another child was alarmed by the presence of the music director and the other person in the room where the experiment was taking place. Somewhat different results were obtained in the presentation of folk songs in a slow and protracted pace to the children. Almost all the children seemed to be puzzled by listening to such songs and did not react to the sounding music. That is why the selection of musical fragments is important so they can have a positive effect on children.

In the classes conducted with the children, as well as creative projects - dances with musical accompaniment, it is impressive that such dances were even performed by children in wheelchairs. Concerts with music performed to rhythmic accompaniment, projects "Playing drums", various concerts inviting children who study in children's music schools - greatly activate children with cognitive impairments. As a rule, such concerts end with performances of noise instruments accompanying a piece of music by children with cognitive disabilities.

In the first photo, the children engage in musical and rhythmic activities, performing the accompaniment of a musical work on noise instruments. In this lesson, the teacher uses bells for such accompaniment.


The second photo demonstrates the involvement of children in musical and rhythmic activities after the concert, which was prepared by students of children's music schools for the New Year.


Subsequently, the LiteBim light and sound system were used in the experimental work. The teacher demonstrates the capabilities of reflective rods and rockets. The next stage was a play with light, for which calm lyrical music was chosen. The game "Stick to the rhythm" was held with the help of intersecting rays from the program. At the beginning of the work, light rhythmic patterns were used, for example, measured tapping with a stick, which is a reflection of a significant part of the rhythmic pattern.

The LiteBim program presents different tones of musical instruments. The game "play music" was introduced when the children mastered the methods of rhythmic performance of a certain piece of music and chose the timbre of a particular instrument. Both instrumental and vocal works were used for this game - songs that the teacher sang while performing rhythmic accompaniment with his sticks. The results of the initial and final diagnostics, which were conducted in November and February 2020, respectively, are shown in the table "Comparative characteristics of the tasks at the beginning and end of training" after the use of information technology in musical and speech development of children, after the use of musical techniques of a creative nature.


 Initial phase

Final stage

Task is performed successfully

Task is not completed

Task is performed successfully

Task is not completed

Correctly name the object whose sounds the child hears









Sing a fragment of a familiar children's song





Remember ths song lyrics





Accompany the music with rhythm






The observation of children's participation in these classes and concerts related to musical and rhythmic activities showed that:

- this type of musical activity brings joy to children, they are happy to be involved in this activity;

- children go to the beginning of the lesson with pleasure, during the lesson they often smile, which shows a positive emotional tone in their condition;

- in such classes there were no indifferent children, everyone responded to the music and even to one that did not have a clear rhythmic beginning;

- The children were interested in the musical instruments on which the musical accompaniment was performed. Before they started playing the accompaniment, they observed these instruments with interest.

All these facts allow us to conclude that musical-rhythmic activity brings joy to children. This creativity can be interpreted as a discovery by children with cognitive disabilities in the development of something new for them. When children play drum music in the rhythm of a march when they choose a silk handkerchief for a piece of music and wave it to the rhythm of longer song music, when they choose march pictures or dance music, when fast music allows them to move fast, even with hands or fingers, when it is impossible to do so with the feet due to concomitant foot disease.


Based on the experiment, some conclusions can be drawn:

- like all other children who live with their parents and do not have disabilities, children with cognitive disabilities are interested in musical-rhythmic activity;

- this activity allows these children to feel the emotion of joy from the musical tone;

- these children get pleasure, which is manifested in their emotional state from the discovery of their abilities - to move to the sounds of music, to accompany the piece of music;

- This activity gives the child confidence in his own strength when he plays the instrument, moves to the sounds of musical works without the help of the educator and his prompts. This improves the psycho-emotional state of children.

We shall note, of course, that in the musical and rhythmic activity the skills for interaction between children are formed, they master and strengthen certain habits of behavior in class and during a concert, they learn to perceive the words of the teacher, etc., but the most important thing is that children involuntarily socialize, and their involvement in creativity brings them joy. The resource support programs for such children can be significantly enriched by using the techniques of musical-rhythmic activity for correction and creativity.

The authors of the article express their gratitude to the director of the orphanage in Ykaterinburg for children with mental retardation Natalia Genadievna Pechenek, the musical director of this institution - Tatiana Borisovna Strizhak for understanding the importance of the process of including children with cognitive impairments in the music activities, for their desire to create a psychologically comfortable environment during classes and concerts, for understanding the importance of this problem, which the authors raised in the presented publication.



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