Sometimes small things make a big difference. In the case of ten nursery and Reception class children with special needs at Booker Park School in Buckinghamshire, a ten-week music project helped them make small physical reactions that represented developmental leaps.
Charity Soundabout began the project in summer 2018 by providing a half-day of training to all staff, followed by more intensive training for teacher Clare Perry (pictured) and a colleague. This prepared them for ten weeks of hour-long, weekly music sessions with children and parents.
The approach measures children’s musical development by how they engage with sound reactively (listening and responding to music), proactively (making music alone) and interactively (engaging in music-making with others). ‘We did a baseline of the children’s ability at the beginning,’ says Ms Perry. ‘Many at 20 months were operating at a level of zero to 11 months.’
During the training, and subsequent music sessions led by a Soundabout representative, Ms Perry learned how to observe children very closely and detect if their small responses and movements, even just an eye or finger movement, were intentional and in response to songs or sounds they could hear.
‘We were using music already, but this enhanced what we were doing,’ says Ms Perry. She adds that the method helped develop the setting’s approach of ‘intensive interaction’. ‘The children are at such an early developmental level that they haven’t learnt there is power in communication,’ she says. ‘Intensive interaction allows an adult to respond or join in with the movements of a child. Gradually the child realises that’s what the adult is doing and you start a two-way conversation.’
During the sessions, some children began to mimic rhythms. Others were able to vocalise, such as filling in a missing word in a song.