I (nervously) start to improvise …

This morning I worked again with the arts team facilitating the chocolate workshop. Despite my comment in the last blog, there was a participant from this morning’s group for whom taste was not accesible. He couldn’t take any food or drink by mouth, being gastro-fed like many other people at sense, and therefore couldn’t join in with the chocolate making. It was a good reminder that whatever you do it can’t be totally accessible, and that you just need to be flexible, sensitive, and willing to tailor your plans to suit the people you’re working with. This morning one of the tutors did a different exercise with the participant, using tissue, starts and clear resin to make christmas themes decorations.

I was working with the same participant as I was yesturday, and the development in her confidence was astonishing. I was already aware that she had made great leaps since coming to TouchBase, but even within the space of a day she had moved from watching me and others do the activity, to joining in with actions such as pouring the chocolate and putting on particular decorations. When I think back, it is easy to see how some people may dismiss these developments as small, but I couldn’t disagree more. As with my slow journey with depression, the smallest of steps can shake the world of the person taking them. During my journey with depression, one sure sign that I was starting to improve was that I could read a news paper article. Before then, I had neither the concentration nor the will to read anything, and had to take in any words through audiobooks or the radio.

One member of the group was markedly more excited than usual, and when I asked what she had been doing to make her so excited one reason was that she had been to the One Giant Leap event the night before. One Giant Leap is a project that supports people who are moving from school or college into adult life, whether that be work, support, or a mixture of the two. The research I have done on the politics and issues surrounding learning difficulties suggests that it is often during the big transitions such as changing house or school that people can feel the most unlistened to. This was reitterated when, in conversation with one of the staff at sense who has a learning difficuty, she told me that her doctor never listened to her during consultaions, and often gave her medication she didn’t want or that had strong side effects. This is deffinately something I can sympathise with, having been on more anti-depressants than I can name and all of them having had moderate to severe side effects. I often find that doctors are unwilling to listen to or believe what I’m asking for. Protecting agency in someone’s life choices is a major front for improving the quality of life for people with learning disabilities, but also everyone else. Most people, I would suggest, would like to have agency in their life choices.

In the afternoon I helped once again with the sensoy storytelling. A I knew the score of the session, I felt confident enough to try improvising along with the text using percussive instruments and my voice. When handing out percussion instruments to the group so they could join in with the second story, I noticed Louise (who is also doing her placement at Sense) was far more succesfull at getting people to take the instruments in their hands. I had been shying away from touching people, so if they didn’t take the instrument straight away I placed it within reach. Louise was actually placing the instrument in their hand, and as a result people joined in with the story much more reasily. I suppoes this teaches me not to be afraid of touch!! I am always worried that touch will be read as forcefull or invasive, but simple assistance with pysical objects is neither of these things. This conversation around qualities of touch was continued as Louise, Adrian Howells and myself ended up getting the same tube home. We had a chance to discuss the TouchBase performance group’s latest project, as well as Adrian’s collaboration with Ian and Gary on He’s The Greatest Dancer.

To round of the session both Louise and myself ended up having a mini-jam with a service user I hadn’t met before. He was taking part in a one on one session with a music tutor, and had asked Louise and I to join in. As someone who was taught music classically, using musical scores and hours of pratice, improvisation terrifies me. However I couldn’t turn down the invotation, and finished my day at sense with a beautiful musical investigation with guitar, squeezebox and voice.

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3 thoughts on “I (nervously) start to improvise …

  1. Flexibility is one thing I am also learning about! It’s something I dread, but I think it comes eventually with confidence and practice.

  2. I think confidence and experience are key, as well as really knowing what the aims of your session is. If you are clear of your aims, the way they manifest within the group is less important.

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