Hitting the right notes

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The UK’s leading providers of Early Years music education programmes, Boogie Mites, has recently announced the launch of brand new material, tailored to cater for children with special educational needs. Here, a teacher, a parent and a member of a Local Authority give their positive experiences using the innovative music programme during its recent trial period.

The programme contains a collection of original Boogie Mites songs, specifically chosen to be used by staff in SEN schools and nurseries to assist with children’s learning and development. The programme also includes the ‘Daily Routines’ song collection, selected to provide engaging musical clues indicating the start of key activities during the day.

The ‘Sticks and Sounds’ SEN programme is appropriate for use throughout the primary phase and can be adapted to suit a wide range of special needs. It is intended to be used as a cross curricular teaching resource – to enrich communication and literacy programmes, to provide stimulus for PE, or to present a starting point for topics in all subjects. Children with SEN can have delayed development in many areas, often including delays in speech and language development. Extensive trials of the ‘Sticks and Sounds’ programme have revealed a series of positive effects on children’s language skills, speech and communication, and is set to have a huge impact on child development this year.

The teacher's view

Michelle Sandford, who has taught children for 27 years and spent the past seven specialising in SEN provision, is just one of the Boogie Mites instructors who have been pioneering the new material in six week courses for Children’s Centres in Hampshire.

“There were a wide variety of needs within each group,” she explains. “From Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy, to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the common need for a learning environment was repetition, routine and structure. Boogie Mites has taken some of its original songs and slowed the tempo right down for a regular beat that can grab the attention of children, calm them down and provide a focus for the session.

“We sang the lyrics in the same way every session (even a slight change in sentence structure or phrasing can be unsettling for some children) and by the middle of the course, all the children were both participating of their own volition and anticipating what was coming next.”

In one specific example, Michelle tells of a little girl with severe autism whose parents said it would be impossible for her to sit still. “In the second week, she started to wander round the room less, by week four she was sitting in the group showing great interest and by the end of the course, she was helping clear away all the props at the end of the class. This gentle, nurturing progress helps build confidence that lasts.” And it isn’t just the children who benefit from the Boogie Mites SEN programme. “Many parents have told me they have never felt so comfortable in a group. They are under so much pressure and they really appreciate the time with others in the same situation.”

The authority's view

Marg Dunne, Inclusion Team Leader for Hampshire County Council, is in firm agreement.

“Praising a child’s ability to sit, clap or shake a rattle is a boost, not just for the child, but also for the parent, who feels their child can do something, make progress and achieve. This is something that parents of SEN children often miss out on.” Marg has been involved in teaching music in schools for over 30 years and worked with Boogie Mites to write the notes for the SEN programme booklet that summarises songs and suggests activities for both the preparation and participation in the music.

“The objective was to incorporate teaching methods such as modelling and mirroring activities into a music programme that children of all ages and abilities, along with their parents, could join in and enjoy.

“In the summer, I ran a four week course for parents in the area who received Portage services and the results were fantastic. Children with multiple and complex needs were able to sway and bounce, while the more able, with language delays for example, made great progress in recognition and response.

“During a song called ‘Jungles of Brazil’, I used puppets of parrots and monkeys and in just the second week, when the song began to play, the children began squawking in anticipation of seeing the puppet again.”

The parent's view

Louise Shervell and her four-year-old son, Josh, are users and great advocates of the programme. “When Josh started to speak, it was always from the back of his throat, so he couldn’t articulate words properly.” Louise recalls. “I was recommended Speech Therapy to help him learn how to position his tongue and mouth.”

“Josh does the Boogie Mites programme at school once a week and I remembered it from when I worked in a local nursery. It has helped him grow in confidence, socialise with other children and improve his speech. For example, after having done the Boogie Mites session on rhyming words, he was in the bath when he said to me, ‘Bath sounds like the word laugh, doesn’t it Mummy?’ I knew then that he was thinking about what he had learned.

“We both love singing together, so when Michelle gave me the resources, it became part of our everyday life which Josh very much looks forward to. I would recommend Boogie Mites without hesitation to any parent and child, but especially to those with similar problems to the ones Josh is learning to overcome.”

“Boogie Mites’ Programmes are truly unique,” says Sue Newman, one of Boogie Mites’ two directors. “There are many studies that highlight the benefits of active music making for language development and emotional wellbeing. This music and movement programme successfully brings those benefits to children with special educational needs.”

FREE resources from the Sticks and Sounds Programme can be accessed by signing up to the Boogie Mites newsletter at www.boogiemites.co.uk.

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