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  • Learning Disability Today London Conference

    Yesterday, Alexia Quin and Caroline Anderson, along with Advisory Panel Member Emma Lovell attended the Learning Disability Today London Conference. Emma Lovell ran a fantastic samba band music activity group for delegates, giving them a real sense of the benefits of active music making.

    Feedback was very enthusiastic: ‘I would like to say that I enjoyed [the workshop] very much’, ‘I really had the feeling that we talked the same language’, ‘we all made one group – amazing!’, ‘I feel that I know you all now’, ‘I feel rejuvenated’ and on the experience of being in a group ‘no-one should be alone’.

    As Music as Therapy International thinks about its role in learning disability care, this conference gave us the chance to hear from people with learning disabilities, support workers, organisations and policy makers about good practice and priorities for health, social life and housing. Alexia and Caroline came away from the conference full of enthusiasm for the potential of skill-sharing with care staff and others to improve the life, health and well-being of people with learning disabilities.

  • Project Hyderabad Week 5

    "It’s time to sing goodbye"…. We have been singing this every day for the past five weeks so we should be prepared! However Dr. Sundhima, who set up ARMS, said it’s just the beginning when we spoke to her about the training earlier this week.

    In the final week as we sat back and observed the teachers facilitating the groups there was a chance to begin to let go and see things from a slightly different perspective. Could we learn something about boundaries in time and space from the teachers here? Keep to time, hold the boundaries but follow the children - a constant mantra from us throughout the project - however we learn a lot from those that push these very boundaries as they seek to assert themselves and challenge the group. Apparently in Hindi the word for tomorrow is the same as the word for yesterday! Maybe in the end being in place and on time, prepared to let go, is the most important feature.   

    The week ended with a presentation to a group of around thirty people, a mixture of parents and professionals. Ishweri, the head teacher at ARMS and Dr. Sundhima had been keen from the first week to bring interested parties together to hear about the experiences of the training at ARMS and Patashala. Somesh and I both presented on the work as well as the parents and teachers from Patashala school and the ARMS centre. Despite this being quite a formal setting there were at least four children from the school there making it a truly inclusive event, and it was the first time the teachers from Patashala had visited the ARMS centre!

    With reference to the 2014 Music as Therapy International Annual Report at the presentation we could point to the work in Romania which started twenty years ago and this suggested that Dr.Sundhima might be correct when she said it was just the beginning!!

    We’ve packed our bags and are ready to go.  “are you sure you have not left anything” someone says.  We certainly hope so….

    Alastair & Somesh

  • Project Hyderabad Week 4

    This week has felt a little like the moment the trapeze artist lets go one swing but has not caught the other and has to trust in the momentum that they have created.  The moments of moving into a space of improvisation with full concentration and focus on the task seem to bring life to the group. Trying to establish a structure which is free enough to allow creative sharing, whatever group it is in, seems to be our task at the moment. Singing “Twinkle twinkle little star"...a song that the teachers regularly sing, we introduce dynamics to the music, taking away the feeling of rote learning from it. As each teacher leads us in tempo and it slows us down to a point of nearly stopping and everybody really has to focus on the leader, the pause and anxiety brings us all together for one of those magical musical moments.

    Somesh came up with a wonderful exercise which brought enthusiasm and creativity to the group - although simple it captured the imagination of the children as we danced with our hands in the air. I asked him later if he had done it before, and to both our surprises he said no. We wondered where it had come from!

    As we struggled to engage some of the children with very high energy levels i was reminded of a poster in the Arms centre entrance/office which read.

    “ When i asked god for strength

     He gave me difficult situations to face”

                              by Swami Vivekanada

    One particular child there had certainly focussed our attentions as he found it very difficult to engage, often disrupting or leaving the group and could not share the instruments. This week however we were able to create a safe space where we could calmly ask him why he found it so difficult to share. He could not answer, but he certainly listened attentively to the question. In the next session after about 20 minutes we arrived at the same position when it was time to hand the drum round. With gentle support from the teachers he was able to share the instrument with one child.

    In our last week we will hand over to the teachers to run the sessions while we observe. This is of course and anxious time but also very interesting and potentially rewarding as we begin to prepare to leave for home allowing them to carry on the work.

    Alastair & Somesh

  • "Learning is experience, everything else is just information" Project Hyderabad: Week 3

    As we get into the swing of things maybe we have reached a tipping point. As everyone finds their place within the simple structures of the music sessions they begin to assert themselves and test the space. The tension between individual and group comes to the foreground, or are we just becoming more aware of it? The wish to modify behaviour by reward is the first stop - can we resist it and stay with the process allowing everyone to have a voice, are we strong enough?

    Another holiday is sprung upon us. It seems the local holidays can be changed or decided upon according to need almost at the last moment. Somesh explains that the local governing bodies are more flexible with holidays taking account of the weather conditions and needs of the various religions. There is method...

    At Patashala, where communication is more of a challenge there was a wonderful moment of collective spontaneous decisiveness by the teachers. When we asked the them if they would like to see the video, discuss issues they had been facing within sessions, or do musical exercises there was a sudden clear group choice to do the musical exercises. We were encouraged by their enthusiasm and assertiveness. As we go through a music activity and play with “following and leading” it becomes clear that using music is by far the best form of communication.

    Who is teaching who we wonder ?

    Later Somesh quoted Einstein  “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”   

    The various Ganesh processions have taken place in the streets accompanied by drumming and dancing well into the night. However as not all the power cables were cleared or raised the power went down for several hours, which of course just added to the festival atmosphere and chaos.

    Alastair & Somesh

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