Learning disabilities in higher education: musical timing deficits and remediation strategies


Sara Raviotta
San Angelo Symphony, Principal Flutist

Dr. Sara Raviotta is principal flutist with the San Angelo Symphony, a freelance musician in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and consultant with an active private flute studio. She works extensively with students with neurodevelopmental disorders, empowering them with information, coping strategies, support, and hope. As part of her doctoral research, she created the first self-help guide for musicians with ADHD and dyslexia (specific learning disorder). She holds degrees from the University of North Texas, Louisiana State University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Accurate perception of time and pulse, as well as execution of rhythm, can be troublesome for students with neurodevelopmental disorders due to slow or inaccurate decoding skills, motor timing skills, visual processing, and rapid temporal processing. Timing deficits can affect performance in core music classes, particularly in the vein of ear training and conducting. Up to 20% of the population could have one or more learning disabilities, making it statistically likely that professors will encounter students with these conditions each year. Students and educators can begin to recognize signs of timing deficits and apply simple strategies for accommodation and remediation.

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