Spectrum Summer Music
A story by Hear My Music
We delivered weekly group and individual remote music sessions, 3 days per week over a period of 5 weeks for autistic children and young people. A number of short videos were created and a podcast.
What Spectrum Summer Music did
We delivered weekly remote music sessions for 20 autistic children and young people. These sessions ran three days per week over five weeks in the summer holiday. Eleven of the participants also attend our term-time after school classes and nine participants were new to our out-of-school activities although some were known to us from school.
We advertised via social media, enable, the national autistic society and other relevant organisations. Carers sometimes were present for the remote sessions to support the participant to attend, others had a break within the home while the session was taking place. Carers who did attend and support the sessions received a break in the sense that we led and facilitated the activities.
We employed freelance practitioners who work on our term-time projects. We had to purchase a small number of instruments to ensure that participants could attend remotely and get the bets experience possible. Practitioners had up-skilled in remote delivery since we moved our delivery online in March, sharing of practice and peer training featured as part of this project.
We enabled children and young people with the most complex needs to attend a music session that was tailored to their needs and presences.
Remote sessions particularly suited some individuals who find in person sessions exceptionally challenging. Because of this attendance from some individuals was better than it would have been in person and more musical progress was made due to not having the added barrier of working through anxieties of being in a physical space.
Everyone engaged positively remotely and despite the challenges of remote group music making, this was more successful than anticipated. Each of the groups felt connected to each other and it was an important aspect of the project. We didn't plan to run this remotely and had also planned to run three intensive weeks. After consultation with participants and families we understood that weekly sessions were better to add consistency and structure to the week.
What Hear My Music has learned
We learnt how to adapt and change our design to make it relevant to the current remote delivery situation, delivering weekly rather than over an intense week was as a direct result of consultation with families.
We had never engaged remotely with new participants who we had never met and found this to work better than we expected. Participants who engaged over the summer school now attend our after-school classes, developing long-term relationships. The participants who previously attended our after-school classes were in need of structure and routine in a very difficult time and we prioritised this as an essential need.
Although the project ran differently from the original plan, the core of supporting young people to develop their musical skills in a participant-led environment suitable to their specific needs remained. We discovered that working remotely really worked well for some participants, both new and known to us and will take this learning forward for the future. The podcast that was made as part of the project was a new endeavour and it gave the young people further autonomy over their work, something that we will also look to repeat in the future.
How Hear My Music has benefitted from the funding
We expanded our reach to more children and young people with complex autism, who subsequently attend our after-school classes. We also secured expansion funding for these classes and the two projects run in partnership with the summer school providing the perfect opportunity to recruit new participants. We learnt a lot through engaging new participants purely remotely and since have engaged a large number of new participants remotely, in part due to the learning gained over the summer school period. We were able to reach children and young people over a wider geographical spread.
Children and young people with disabilities (aged 20 and under) will have more opportunities to have fun, develop friendships and do activities they enjoy
Children and young people had the opportunity to engage in remote group and individual music sessions, through this they developed friendships and skills and had the opportunity to explore music in the way that best suited them as individuals. Even remotely, young people developed relationships, enjoying being in the same digital space in a time where isolation was a major issue. Participants who attend during term time who knew each other previously had the opportunity to maintain friendships and connections through the shared activity in the online space. Getting together in groups, although difficult musically was particularly important and this was achieved and a positive experience for the children and young people.
This is a case study of a group of four young people who have worked together for a number of years. When the schools closed in March these young people were significantly isolated. The group were well connected through meeting in the online space, they were always pleased to see each other and families reported that it was their main social time. It provided a consistent and positive routine and connection with others in a completely turbulent time and this was widely recognised as an essential part of structure for the week.
Carers of children and young people with disabilities (aged 20 and under) will have more opportunities to enjoy a life outside of their caring role
This outcome was a little different from expected due to the fact that sessions were delivered remotely, meaning that the term that carers would have while the children and young people were in the music session was within the home. For some carers this still provided them with a break as the young person was fully independently engaged in a meaningful activity for a time. Some carers had to be present to facilitate the participant joining in remotely, this provided them with a different kind of break from previously planned. Parents/siblings and carers reported enjoying witnessing the child or young person engaging meaningfully and making progress, adding to their wellbeing.
One family started working together with one autistic young person and his siblings to create music videos together. This was a direct result of his family being present in the music sessions as they were taking place in the house. Although the outcome was different, the family had the opportunity to work together musically and the siblings were working together musically on a completely even playing field. This was a huge positive for this family and brought them all together outwith the caring role.
Carers of children and young people with disabilities (aged 20 and under) will feel better supported to sustain their caring role
Carers got an insight into the abilities and achievement of the children and young people they care for, leading to positive interaction and feelings of pride. Carers who were supporting children and young people to join the digital space had the opportunity to meet other carers in this situation, reducing the sense of extreme isolation that was more prevalent than ever at the time.
One parent who could never have brought her child to a physical session due to childcare and transport issues managed to attend a small group remote session with her child. This allowed the parent to meet other parents and connect with them, they are now still connecting and have a support network outwith the music sessions.
Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their carers will develop an awareness of often hidden musical abilities, leading to a sense of pride and ability to work with others, impacting positively on relationships.
Every child and young person who attended the summer project made musical progress, both individually and for those attending a group, in a remote group context too. The challenges in working remotely meant that we had previously lowered our musical expectations, the results were consistently better than expected in progress and confidence, despite varying quality of musical instruments and internet connections. The videos we made for each individual were shared with families and this could be then shared to a wider audience than their immediate families. The podcast that was created also gave everyone involved a sense of pride and achievement and has been widely shared and listened too.
One young person who attended music sessions with us for the first time on our summer music project made significant progress in the use of her voice through singing and vocalisation. This was particularly remarkable as previously she hadn't chosen to express herself in this way. Subsequently her family and carers enjoy and use this newfound expressive side in her daily communication. This has resulted not only in a sense of pride and achievement but also in improved expressive communication which is something that can be developed to a deeper level.