Awards, Hula-Hoops and Not-Quite-Getting-It

This morning the group were working with marbling and casting techniques, neither of which I had done before. In order to develop the theme of the sessions we had moved on from the characters of previous weeks, and into creating friends, family and homes for these characters. Egg boxes, placed into troughs of water with coloured oils on the surface, became houses for the characters, and casts were put on boiled eggs and kiwis to create family and friends.

It was exciting to hear that one member of the group had achieved his bronze Duke of Edinburgh! I noticed that each participant had a diary that was checked over by the support workers to keep up with information like this.  I really enjoyed the communication between family, school/college and the support workers at sense, making sure any individual can get as coherent support as possible. This is something I feel is important with anyone, not just people with disabilities, as communication between institutions and family can unwind a lot of confusions and problems simply because everyone is on the same page.

As on Thursday, I experienced the frustration of not being able to understand what a participant was trying to say. One participant was happy to keep trying until I or his support worker got it, at which point he would burst out with laughter. I’m glad he enjoyed the game of getting us to understand, but there were others who I was worried I had shut down communication with because I hadn’t understood them and they didn’t want to keep on and on repeating themselves. Sign is a useful tool, as if you are uncomfortable communicating through speech it’s another route to get to the same place. I’m slowly picking up words and phrases, but still only bits and bobs. I also use yes or no questions where people can shake or nod their heads if I’m getting really stuck. It’s a bit long winded, but it’s something to fall back onto until I find a better communication method (or learn sign – it’s looking more and more inevitable!)

During the session one participant began playing with the hula hoops in the room, listening to the sand in them make noise and finding ways to move with it. Another participant came to join us and began to spin the hoops; it was good to see that he didn’t let his wheelchair become a barrier to this activity. I go to circus training two to three times a week, and as I saw this interaction I began to bring ideas together in my head. I had already though about the possibility of a non-ableist circus group, with lots of people with different bodies and ways of working. This thought had first come into my head when researching circus over summer, and repeatedly finding images of young, slender, athletic, ‘able’ bodies. Admittedly strength is a definite bonus in circus, but who says you need to be able bodied to be strong? And here I was seeing proof that circus skills were of interest to someone with a learning/communication disability. Scottish Opera have already begun to develop his idea with their work AerialO.

I also became aware of sound and the voice this weak. The tutor of the classes pointed out that I oftenvocalise my actions, singing notes to match the dabs of a paintbrush or creating rhythms in making activities. This was something I hadn’t previously noticed, but as someone who’s always loved singing and music it didn’t surprise me. I would like to continue to experiment with using sound and voice alongside ‘non-musical’ activities as ways to enhance engagement and fun.



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