Soundabout reaches children, young people and adults with severe or profound learning disabilities throughout Oxfordshire and enables them to enjoy making music.
Soundabout has pioneered the use of music, rhythm and sound to give disabled children and adults a voice, a way to express themselves and be listened to. The charity provides training to staff in SEN Schools and professionals who support people with severe learning disabilities, delivered by highly skilled Soundabout practitioners.
In addition, Soundabout offers children, young people and adults with their families and carers regular community sessions which encourage absolutely everyone to take part in their own way in a relaxed and friendly environment. When COVID-19 stopped these sessions from happening in person, the charity wanted to find a way of delivering them that would provide continuity and stability to families in a very challenging lockdown environment.
A grant from OCF’s COVID-19 Resilience Fund has enabled Soundabout’s music practitioner team to deliver Soundabout Live!: twice weekly sessions from home with the right equipment to ensure clear sound and vision. The pilot session alone had 55 live participants (now viewed on Facebook over 1,900 times) and feedback directly after the session included: “Well done, this was lovely! Josh was doing tummy time and practising his head lifting – good motivation!”.
Participants in the Soundabout Live! sessions are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 and unlikely to be able to return to school or access any kind of music groups until the Autumn at the earliest. Through their work with special schools, Soundabout Live! sessions are being included as part of the home schooling programmes for pupils with severe or profound learning disabilities, and information is shared with teachers and Special Educational Needs Coordinators and seek feedback and input from them.
Disabled children, young people and adults have connected well with the practitioner on screen and enjoyed making music in their home. George’s mum says: “Soundabout thank YOU for hosting! It worked perfectly and George enjoyed it as much as a real-life session. I wish I had caught his excitement when it started! It made me cry to see him so happy. It’s been a difficult time, with some very difficult behaviour moments, and it’s been really hard to amuse George whilst home schooling two others. It meant a lot to give George some special time.”
The mother of a 12-year-old with multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy, complex epilepsy and visual impairment, said: “Your live sessions have been such a gift to me and Ava. They’ve been an utter joy to be part of. Ava has no vision so has no idea you’re behind an iPad screen and when she hears her name, she reacts in the same way she would if you were with her in person. We’ve laughed, danced, made all sorts of weird and wonderful noises and you’ve brought fun, love and laughter to our living room almost every day over the last few weeks as we’ve listened to your stories over and over and got together our props with great excitement as to what’s coming in future sessions.”
Soundabout tell us that they have reached many new families by delivering sessions online and promoting them via social media. There have now been over 1,680 ‘users’ of Soundabout Live! sessions on Facebook from across Oxfordshire. Like other charities, Soundabout is starting to think about the future and how they might improve their services in the long term based on what they’ve learnt.
Soundabout CEO Clare Cook says: “We have seen the difference that these virtual sessions and regular connection makes to children, young people and adults with severe or profound learning disabilities, and their families. As we start to rebuild and recover, Soundabout is committed to continuing virtual sessions alongside our face-to-face sessions following all the positive feedback and requests to keep offering these sessions.”