When Jack, a man with PMLD who I support, couldn’t attend his sister’s wedding in New Zealand earlier this year, I got together with his family and friends to make a plan on how we could include him in the party – from the other side of the world!
Jack LOVES music, so it was a no-brainer: let’s perform a song that will celebrate his very special bond with his sister Jenny. I spoke to Jack’s mum to gather stories and memories they shared together, and then wrote a few verses to the tune of one of Jack’s favourite nursery rhymes. I sang the song to Jack and it seemed to be an instant hit! Over the weeks that followed, many of us shared the song with Jack until he instantly recognised it and responded with that beautiful contagious laugh of his.
As the wedding day drew nearer, I met with his family and friends, and my colleague James recorded us singing these gorgeous memories that Jack shares with his sister. Jack listened intently and giggled a lot as we finished the song. His laughter was so wonderful that we used it throughout the recording!
Needless to say, Jenny was over the moon on her wedding day when she was surprised by Jack’s song projected on to the big screen, with Jack joining in by Zoom. This was one of the most rewarding music activities I have ever taken part in, and it’s an idea definitely worth sharing! Do you support someone who loves music and is missing someone very much? Why not help them to write some simple lyrics to one of their favourite songs and record the result for an absent family member? In these strange times, sharing loving memories and wishes can literally mean the world to those involved.
If any of you reading this feel inspired, I’d love to hear your finished songs- please do share them with me here or on Twitter!
It feels like such a long time since the corona virus forced us all into lockdown and changed our lives forever. Finding fun and engaging things to do with the people we support has been a huge challenge, but on a positive note it’s also forced us to get creative!
If you’re interested in the Zoom music sessions I’m running – or even if you just want a quick, fun crafting activity to do at home – why not make your own instruments from everyday objects? Here we’ll focus mainly on percussion instruments that help teach rhythm, just as we would do in a face-to-face session.
Shakers (think of them as makeshift maracas) can be made from absolutely any container you have lying around. Coffee jars or tins, plastic detergent and chocolate boxes, pop bottles, anything – the options are as endless as your imagination!
Being self sufficient in a small space is much easier (and enjoyable) than you might think! Since lockdown, I’ve been busy making a vegetable patch with the people I support. Not only is this a fun activity for ‘dif-abled’ people that makes the most of the sunshine we’re currently all enjoying, but it will also save a ton of money and attract lots of wildlife and pollinators to our garden.
Ten years ago, I knew nothing about gardening. It seemed like a useful but time-consuming hobby: too much hard work and too much information to take in. Then I moved to a small farming community in the mountains of southern Spain, where old men wearing flat caps still use mules to plough the earth, and everyone in the village has their own allotment, or huerto.
There’s no doubt about it: life has become intensely weird over the last couple of weeks. All the simple things we used to take completely for granted – seeing friends and family, hugging, standing close to a stranger in a queue, sitting on a park bench, having a nice meal and a few drinks out – has gone in the blink of an eye. For those of us in health and social care, the frustration isn’t only felt in our own personal lives, but experienced at work too: a myriad of ever-evolving company policies to negotiate, breaking the tragic news to parents that they can no longer see their children in supported living, stretching the imagination on a daily basis to come up with creative ways of entertaining our service users – many of whom may be confused, anxious and unable to understand the sudden death of their activity schedule and the complex reasons behind the lockdown.
It’s certainly a stressful time – on that we can all agree – but I often feel like a lone voice in the wilderness when I discuss COVID-19 with friends, family and colleagues and argue that what the world needs now more than anything else is positivity. So rather than giving into the temptation to hide under your duvet until it’s all over, here are a few proactive and realistic steps you can take to put a smile back on your face. And if you’re a nurse or carer, the same goes for the people you support!
Diego blinks several times and looks at me with his trademark grin. “S-s-s-sophie”, he stammers, his eyes alight with excitement, “Can we sing the Shrek song again?” Happily, I oblige, and we dance, and we play, and we laugh a lot. We do this every single day. Next, he’ll ask if we can sing YMCA, we’ll laugh some more, and then at some point I’ll persuade him to back away from the music blasting out of the computer and come for a walk in the countryside with me.
He’ll hold my hand as we amble through the woods. He’ll point out birds and many other wild sounds I hadn’t even noticed – being as I am too wrapped up in my everyday problems – and I’ll be glad he brought me back to the present moment, as always. Then Diego will usually tell me the same story over and over again, and even though it takes him a while to find the words, I’ll never get tired of hearing it because he does it with such enthusiasm – always smiling, always peppering the tale by telling me ‘I l-l-l-l-love you Sophie’, with his beaming grin, his pride and his genuine affection cheering my day up no end. I feel the urge to kiss Diego all over his cutesy, chubby little face every time I see him. He’s probably the most adorable child I have ever met in my life.
Diego happens to have Down’s syndrome, which, far from being a burden to me as his (informal, family-friend) nanny, only seems to reinforce my belief that most disabilities could be more accurately termed ‘dif-abilities’.
Winter is fading, green shoots are pushing up through the earth, and we can already enjoy the beautiful sight of snowdrops and crocuses bursting with colour. Yay! Spring is almost upon us, which seems like the perfect time to write a blog post about the therapeutic value of such things as gardening, rambling across the moors, walking through a forest, or otherwise appreciating the natural world, with its wonderful sounds of babbling brooks, birdsong and breeze rustling through the trees.
New research out this month has offered further evidence that human interaction with nature is a vital ingredient for health and wellbeing. Surprised? Me neither. But wait! Not only that, this fascinating study found that having an emotional connection with nature is four times more likely to make us feel that our lives are worthwhile and have meaning than having a high social status or income level.
SENSORY MUSIC SESSIONS ARE NOW AVAILABLE ON ZOOM! GROUP MUSIC AND ART SESSIONS WILL START AGAIN IN THE NEW YEAR (SOWERBY BRIDGE & TODMORDEN). FOLLOW US ON TWITTER TO STAY UPDATED!
Creative Rhythms: Tailor-made, person-centred art, music, nature and sensory sessions to develop, excite and inspire
Wouldn’t it be nice to live a world where people recognise that what unites us is far more important than any ‘dif-ability’* that divides us? Music, nature and the creative arts speak to something deep inside each and every one of us, and promote a great and long-lasting sense of wellbeing and inner peace.
Creative Rhythms offers person-centred, tailor-made art and music sessions along with sensory and intensive interaction time and seasonal outdoor activities to focus on what we all have in common: a love of and deep connection to music, art, nature and the senses. Aside from being tons of fun, sessions can help to develop the following:
Spiritual and emotional wellbeing
Reclamation of personal power
Potential for holistic development
Meaningful opportunities for learning
Sense of self
Learning rhythm and tempo
Interaction with others
Observation and listening skills
Sessions are also therapeutic, calming, and inspire happiness
TheCreative Rhythms Philosophy is that all people with a ‘dif-ability’ can express themselves and come alive through music, creativity, the senses, alternative communication techniques, and time spent in nature. Find out more by clicking on the ‘FAQs’ tab above.
Our blog posts follow. You can explore them all or quick-jump to a specific post by using the links below:
‘Spiral Tribe’: Creative Rhythms’ accessible sensory allotment: Read here
How to make your own musical instruments at home: Read here
Inclusive music-making: How Jack made his sister’s wedding day so special: Read here
How to start growing your own food in a small or urban space: Read here
How to cope – and thrive! – during lockdown: Read here
On the ethics of UK abortion laws and discrimination against dif-abled people : Read here
How science shows that nature and wellbeing go hand in hand : Read here