Posts Tagged ‘autism’
I began the music workshops at the Kishti Centre without any verbal introduction, just using song and music as communication as each child/carer entered the room and was seated. At the first session, there was a wide age-range of children and I was a little anxious if it would work within such a range. But actually it proved a gift, where some of the older children were more able to play and maintain a beat on a drum or a tambourine, while I interacted with some of the younger babies.Stimulating creativity and bonding through music
I trust the music and that a kind of magic is created where the children are ‘held’ by the songs and by the nature of the human voice. I moved around the circle, singing to them, making eye contact, deviating from my song if they made a little noise and copying them to encourage their creativity. I encouraged the mothers to join in, to sing the songs that I sang. I chose a repertoire that is simple, often with few words so that it is easy to mimic and I encouraged the mothers to hold their children close so that they could feel the sound through their bodies (ostephonics – much of what we perceive as ‘hearing’ is actually felt through our bones).
Gradually I added other ‘flavours’ to stimulate the children – a pretty bright bell sound that they can ring themselves, or the soft beat of a drum. They would stretch out and feel the drum skin and intuitively bang it in time to the music. An egg shaker, small enough for even the littlest child to hold means they could create their own rhythm to accompany the song and promote physical movement.One child sat on my lap facing me and held my head between his hands, gazing into my eyes as I sang. He sat there for several minutes with this incredible eye contact.
I encouraged ‘play songs’, where the lyrics promote a combined movement of mother and child – wiggling, lifting up into the air and clapping. I also used a coloured piece of silk material which can be thrown up into the air and then floats down. They all gazed at it and watched it fall and felt the movement of the air. I also used it to create a little intimate space, hiding under it with a child and mother or used it folded as an opaque mask to play ‘peek-a-boo’ from behind.
I asked the mothers about any songs they knew or if they could share with me any words or melodies. We had a volunteer who sang the words ‘Ala megum’ (the lyrics of which I sing at a concert at the conservatoire the next day). She sang a line and we all copied her and the sense of her courage and of the sharing in the room was inspiring. For me, it felt that everyone in the room was included, took part, communicated and shared, and that the music created a focus as well as an atmosphere of creativity and joyfulness.Music therapy and autism
The sessions at the Autism Centre were equally well supported, despite adverse weather conditions making it difficult for some mums to journey in with their children. Within the two sessions I held, the first began at a cracking pace, led by a young boy whose physical energy and dynamism were to direct the energy of the music I used. We danced, stomped and clapped and the mums and children around the edge of the room joined in and laughed and moved in time to the music. I was grateful for the help of Pam who generated a great energy accompanying the song on a tablac drum. The energetic child in particular was free to move and dance and run in the room without a sense of need to be restrained, and naturally he fell into the beat of the music and expressed himself in his dancing, a huge smile across his face.
Other children joined in the centre of the room, compelled by the rhythm, some clapped and bounced at the sidelines. Some children were more vocal and after hearing my voice felt free to sing their own vocal lines, one boy in particular created soaring melodic lines which we copied and sang back to him. He gained confidence and sang higher and longer more sustained musical melodies, of his own making, moving his body with the shape of the melody. Some children hid behind their mothers, so I offered a percussion instrument in a ‘peek-a-boo’ style, to give a sense of play and they would leap forward to bash the instrument and go back again.
One child sat on my lap facing me and held my head between his hands, gazing into my eyes as I sang. He sat there for several minutes with this incredible eye contact. He would look at my mouth then the rest of my body, deciphering where the sound was coming from. He quietly mouthed words, as if to sing himself, and smiled and interacted. Another boy came out from hiding behind his mother, drawn to the hypnotic beat of a song and lay on the floor, rocking in time to the music, his movement becoming slower until he lay still, listening and gently squeezing my fingers to the still quiet beat of the tablac and the soft melody.
At one point, I just sang, and the children listened. Their attention was phenomenal. I sang a whole Italian operatic aria, at full pelt and they were completely held by the music, and watched and listened and when I sang the final note, they knew that the song was finished and suddenly bounced and smiled filled with happiness! To be supported by such compassionate helpers, mothers and staff was inspiring and such a joy.Well supported
The sessions were so well supported by the staff in the centres and the mothers really took part and were supportive and keen to see their child’s development and interaction through the sessions. They intuitively understood the purpose of the sessions and were delighted by their child’s interaction. The sessions for me were a wonderful experience, to play and sing with the children, to help bring out their own creative energies and accompany them in their dancing, singing and expression. To be supported by such compassionate helpers, mothers and staff was inspiring and such a joy.
I look forward to returning and building on the work and more importantly, to help encourage and train others to lead such workshops to build sustainable workshops for children’s creativity that can be enjoyed on a more regular basis.
Written by: Lynsey Docherty, professional singer
Related posts:Tajikistan: fostering parent dialogue on special needsKyrgyz Republic: Umut's story Volunteering at HealthProm: my experience