Empowering Children with Special Educational Needs through Music and Creativity
We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Rodney House School, a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) primary school, for an amazing Party in the Playground. This concert showcased the incredible talents of the children and celebrated their achievements in a creative and engaging way.
Under the guidance of OMF facilitator Ali Mac, the students embarked on a musical journey inspired by Maurice Sendak's beloved book, "Where the Wild Things Are." This article highlights the remarkable project at Rodney House School, along with the broader impact of OMF's Feel the Beat workshops for children with SEND.
OMF's Feel the Beat project extends its transformative power to primary school children with complex and severe learning needs at Rodney House. The project focuses on individual progress and provides tailored sessions led by OMF SEND facilitator Ali Mac. Every Wednesday, Ali engages the students in group and one-on-one sessions, allowing them to experiment with different instruments and engage with music using multi-sensory objects from the musical toolbox.
The Party in the Playground concert at Rodney House School was the culmination of the children's musical journey. Ali's creativity brought the story of "Where the Wild Things Are" to life through a multi-media performance. Each group of children - Hippos, Elephants, and Tigers - contributed to the soundscape of the wild forest where the story unfolds. Using shakers and boomwhackers, the students emulated the sounds of the forest, adding to their performance.
According to Deborah, the Head Teacher of Rodney House School, "The dedication and expertise demonstrated by him in assisting children with special needs in developing their communication skills, sensory regulation, and confidence are truly commendable."
Deborah further highlighted Ali's approach: "From the very beginning, it was evident that Ali had a deep understanding of the unique needs of each child he worked with. His approach was personalised, tailored to address the specific challenges and abilities of each individual. This level of individualised attention fostered a safe and nurturing environment for the children, allowing them to freely express themselves and explore the world of music at their own pace."
Ali shared the inspiring progress of Yacob, a student with autism and behavioural difficulties. Ali said, "Yacob has autism and behavioural difficulties. When I first started working with him on a one-to-one basis, he was a predominantly non-verbal communicator. He would sometimes react aggressively and physically towards me and the staff. Now, however, at the end of the academic year, his communication skills and verbal prompts have dramatically improved, as well as his sporadic behaviour."
Ali described the strategies he used to engage Yacob: "In his one-to-one sessions, I use repetition and 'tension and release' songs and activities to encourage him to finish musical phrases and fill in the gaps with missing words. As time has passed and he has become increasingly aware of the structure of the sessions, I have been able to develop these activities, which has further encouraged him to vocalise, sing, play instruments, and even mimic my whistling."
Yacob's progress amazed both Ali and the school staff: "His focus and attention span have improved week on week, as well as his behavioral difficulties during our music sessions. The staff have noticed a steady improvement in his communication skills both in and out of the one-to-one sessions."
The Party in the Playground concert at Rodney House School shows the power of music in the lives of children with special educational needs, creating a nurturing and inclusive environment where the students could express themselves, communicate, and develop essential skills. The success of this project highlights the importance of projects like Feel the Beat, enabling children to explore their creativity, build confidence, and experience the joy of music.
For more information about Feel the Beat and OMF's other projects, please visit check us out here: https://www.olympiasmusicfoundation.com/our-projects
Photos by Charlotte Wellings