Learn­ing Curves:

Health drum­ming is catch­ing on as a pow­er­ful ther­apy to both soothe and stim­u­late chil­dren with spe­cial needs.

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Contents - BY MON­ICA PITRELLI

In­no­va­tive drum ther­apy for kids

Ac­cord­ing to DARYL VAN HALE, Prin­ci­pal of Mel­bourne Spe­cial­ist In­ter­na­tional School (MSIS), the idea to launch a drum­ming pro­gramme came about dur­ing a visit of Jayne Nadara­joo, the school’s owner and di­rec­tor, to Wash­ing­ton DC. While at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence there, Jayne watched a drum­ming per­for­mance by a group of stu­dents with autism. She called Daryl – even though it was 3am in Sin­ga­pore – and ex­cit­edly ex­plained what she’d seen. “It was amaz­ing!” she told him over the line. “We need some­thing like this at MSIS. Can you look into it?” Daryl’s re­sponse? “Of course!”

The pro­gramme kicked off at the school last year. Here we chat with Daryl about how it works and the many ben­e­fits it brings.

How pop­u­lar is this ther­apy on a global scale?

Drum­ming ther­apy is be­com­ing more and more pop­u­lar world­wide. I found a cou­ple of op­tions in Sin­ga­pore, but the cen­tre I was most im­pressed with was Drum Prodigy.

What ther­a­peu­tic ef­fects does drum­ming have on your stu­dents?

Drum­ming helps with com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs. It’s a use­ful way to “talk” non­ver­bally and to “lis­ten” to an­other per­son’s non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Plus, it’s a fun way for chil­dren to prac­tice tak­ing turns, share and feel like they are part of a group. Dif­fer­ent tech­niques im­prove fine and gross mo­tor skills and de­velop core and lower ex­trem­ity strength, too. Play­ing a drum or per­cus­sion in­stru­ment also helps reg­u­late emo­tions. It’s a safe way for chil­dren to ex­press their feel­ings. There’s noth­ing bet­ter for re­leas­ing anger than bang­ing on a drum! Fi­nally, drum­ming helps their cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment, too. Drum­ming ses­sions al­low them to work on things like fo­cus, at­ten­tion, im­pulse con­trol and de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills.

Is there any re­search on drum­ming as it re­lates to spe­cial needs chil­dren?

There are sev­eral stud­ies that show drum­ming has a pos­i­tive out­come on so­cial be­hav­iour, self- ex­pres­sion, self- es­teem, co­or­di­na­tion and learn­ing. This is for chil­dren and adults, both with and with­out dis­abil­i­ties.

When did you in­tro­duce drum­ming into your cur­ricu­lum?

We be­gan drum­ming ses­sions last Novem­ber. Our stu­dents get a weekly les­son from Drum Prodigy, and our teach­ers fol­low up with two to three more ses­sions dur­ing the week.

De­scribe a typ­i­cal ses­sion.

Ses­sions be­gin with a “tun­ing in” pe­riod with singing and rhyth­mic work to fo­cus the stu­dents’ at­ten­tion. Then they work with the drums, break­ing down rou­tines into eas­ily man­aged sec­tions, fol­low­ing di­rec­tions and, of course, hav­ing fun. At the end, they put the smaller pieces to­gether to cre­ate a larger, more com­plex per­for­mance. The teach­ers and the stu­dents are of­ten pleas­antly sur­prised by what they ac­com­plish.

MSIS is a spe­cial needs school that also of­fers oc­cu­pa­tional, speech, physio, art and so­cial skills ther­a­pies for chil­dren from three to 21 years of age. 6634 8891 | msis.edu.sg

Sev­eral chil­dren played the drums at the an­nual MSIS con­cert; this year, the school per­formed “The Jun­gle Book”.

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