Child With Autism in the Marching Band

Question: I have a child that has autism and wants to be a part of the marching band. Do the judges take into consideration the disability? I don’t think it would be fair to either the child or the band if it’s not a consideration for judging. And if the disability is taken into consideration, do you have specific guidelines that are followed (e.g., what types of disabilities are allowed)?

Answer: GREAT question. As judges, we are there to adjudicate whatever is put before us. Have I had to judge a band that had a member with a disability? Yes. However, I was notified ahead of time that this band had a member with special needs. If I hadn’t been informed of this prior to the performance, I might’ve made comments such as “clarinet player is continually out of step” or “trombone player consistently has problems with tempo and pulse”. The fact that I knew beforehand prevented me from making multiple comments on an issue that the performer quite frankly may have had no control over. The aspect that made this a positive experience for me was that this particular performer was really giving their all and did quite a few things VERY WELL. I was able to credit those efforts which I hope would’ve help build some confidence for that member. I applaud those directors who try and give all their members an opportunity to participate regardless of any disability and would encourage them to notify the contest coordinator so that the judging panel is aware of that member.

– Mark Culp