During our project with Swiss Cottage Special Needs school in N. London, we worked around 15 different children with special needs. Jamie, our highly skilled workshop leader, was able to adapt the project to suit the specific needs of each participant, at the same time as facilitating group work that everyone could take part in. For a quick insight into this please wacth our Swiss Cottage video.
Abas (name changed), who was confined to a motorised wheel chair, was particulalry keen to get involved and Jamie worked hard to find things that were suitable and compatible with his physical abilities. He was very good a spinning poi and plate spinning, but what really got him engaged, was when Jamie made some equipment called a “finger baton” especially for him. Here are some exerts from an audio interview that Peter did with Abas asking a series of pre-set questions at the end of the project:
Pete: Did the workshops make you feel happier? Abas: Yes I like it. Peter: Can you do more in circus skills lessons than in sports lessons? Abas: Circus skills. Yes. Pete: Do you feel more confident because of learning circus skills? Abas: Cause I learnt this [the finger baton – shows me and gives a demonstation]. Pete: So it makes you feel like you can do things, does it make you feel like you are more physically active? Abas: Yes.
To see Abas in action and to hear Jamie talk about this process please watch the video on our Swiss Cottage page; and also read, this and other, evaluatoions here.
Since this is an upcoming project, we do not have specific Case Histories of working with Looked After Children (LACs) in Blackburn, however we have some stories of how LACs have benefited from other arts education programmes run by our Partners and some other related anecdotal evidence. NB: all names have been changed to protect anonymity.
Barbara, one of the Blackburn foster carers who is active with the Blackburn Foster Carers Association had two young brothers in her care for most of their teenage years John (age 13 to 18) and Ben (age 12 to 17). John had Asperger’s and would often have behavioural issues in public and was isolated and bullied. Ben was awkward with peer social skills. After a few years of attending activities run by “the Voice”, a local council Children’s Services outreach programme, and attending art and music classes at the Blackburn Bureau Centre for the Arts, they slowly learnt how to interact with other people and socialise. John is now in a band and does interviews for new youth workers and Ben is hoping to apply to go to college. Barbara has no doubt that the local outreach programmes made a big difference to them but laments the fact that many of the local council services have been cut recently.
At the PWB taster session in Blackburn in Oct 2019, a youth worker arrived with 3 young children (6-7yrs old) obviously in council care. Two of them seemed happy to interact with the circus equipment, but one seemed inconsolably sad and withdrawn. I was able to slowly get some interaction with him by just getting him to keep passing a juggling ball back to me. Slowly we drew him out of his shell and got him to try a few other props. But he didn’t do it for long and went back to sulk quite quickly. I genuinely feel longer regular sessions would have a very good influence on him and give him something fun to look forward to doing that would help him develop some positivity.
The Bureau Centre for the Arts, Blackburn runs regular stilts walking and fire performance workshops open to all participants. The fire performance classes have been particularly good at attracting teenage girls (12-16yrs) who enjoy the more creative dance-like aspect of fire performance. This is significant because it is a well know trend that teenage girls tend to drop out more easily from traditional physical educational classes. The workshop leader from those courses has been told by the participants that they have used their attendance and performances on their applications for college and for Duke of Edinburgh Awards schemes.
We feel these case histories show that an extended CAI programme will address the specific needs of LACs in Blackburn area.