Back in 2015 we worked with Hyderabad’s Autism Research and Multidisciplinary School (known as the ‘ARMS Centre’) on a music skill-sharing project. The centre, which caters to people with autism (from childhood to mid-adulthood), employs a group of passionate teachers who have since been running an impressive four music groups a week. All twenty-eight students at ARMS were participating in the music groups by the time of this tailored Support Visit. However, the teachers felt that three years on they needed some guidance on refreshing their session plans to accompany the positive changes they had seen in their students – especially around improved communications and listening skills.

So, in 2018, Advisory Panel member Nina Cherla visited the centre to catch up with the partners, observe their work and listen to their ideas for support. In response, she devised a workshop for the following week focused their stated needs (new activities to prevent activities becoming stagnant) and needs she had observed (ways to incorporate all students in sessions – not just the most vocal). The workshop day was designed to include open discussions, watching video clips and music activities, spanning five modules. Seven members of staff took part – four who had been trained originally, and three who were new to MasT’s methods but had supported music groups.

The teachers expressed that most activities are working well and they have seen big changes in the children. Common progress observed were improved listening skills, increased participation and self-expression.

Nina’s report

During the first part of the day, the teachers discussed the aims they had for their different groups, and looked at whether the activities they were using still applied to their aims. This led to a fruitful discussion on always modifying your activities, which the teachers found eye-opening, and together with Nina they created guidelines for their groups in future: to revisit activities once aims have been met, to check up on this monthly, and to think particularly about updated functional goals with their songs.

In the second half of the workshop, the group focused on developing new activities, and thought particularly about how to ensure all children, even those who do not present as engaged or loud, were given equal opportunities to be involved. The group agreed to introduce new activities, such as ‘the conductor’, for this in particular, and loved the idea of the ‘can play’ activity as a way for their students to explore dynamics and feelings.

The teachers know their students extremely well and are able to notice and appreciate even the smallest signs of progress. They truly believe in the power of music and are determined to continue carrying out the music groups.

Nina’s report

Nina left feeing that, with a bit of support with session planning from her, the staff at The ARMS Centre would gradually no longer need her support. They too ended the day feeling confident adapting activities to the changing aims for their students, and looking forward to delivering their next music sessions.