Children who might otherwise be excluded from music lessons are being given new opportunities to participate, following the launch of OHMI’s innovative new teaching programme.
Its introductory course on music-making for children with physical disabilities took place in April, and was delivered in partnership with Birmingham City University. It included demonstrations of the instruments and enabling equipment available to help children with physical disabilities to play music.
Andrew Hird, Partnership Manager at Lincolnshire Music Service, was one of the practitioners who joined the training. As the Equity, Diversity and Inclusions (EDI) Lead for his Music Service, he has a keen interest in, and understanding of, what is needed to realise the ambitions outlined in new Government policy The power to change lives: a national plan for music education and ensure true for inclusivity across the 360+ primary, secondary and special schools across Lincolnshire.
Integral to achieving these aims is the partnership between Lincolnshire Music Service and The OHMI Trust, with Andrew and a fellow member of the leadership team, Heather, both now trained to carry out needs assessments as a result of participating in OHMI’s training programme.
Reflecting on the training, Andrew said,
“The training was a real eye-opener when it came to assessing both physical disability and neurodiversity needs.
“With the help of OHMI, we’re able to better assess needs and source appropriate solutions. We’ve secured a specially adapted Violin bow through Project Limitless – Prosthetics for Children | Koalaa to support the prosthetic of a girl with an upper limb absence. We’ve also provided a plectrum enabling a child with cerebral palsy to strum the Ukulele. I’ve also learnt that simply introducing a trumpet stand might help to anchor a child with ADHD.”
“It is SO important that children with additional needs are not squirrelled away to work on other activities whilst their peers get to make music! It’s my job now to make sure that every partnership manager and the wider staff at the Lincolnshire Music Service are aware of all the resources they have at their disposal to make music truly accessible for all. Our assessments are ideally an in-depth 30-minute interview but even a snatched conversation walking at pace with a music teacher down a school corridor, goes some way towards identifying those children who need additional support.”
Testament to the music service’s diligence in ensuring every child has the opportunity to play music, is the feedback from some of the pupils who have benefitted. Year 3 pupil Harrison has spinal muscular atrophy, a condition which limits his strength and range of movement. An initial assessment, carried out with the support of OHMI’s General Manager, Rachel Wolffsohn, led to sourcing a specially weighted, larger drum and wheelchair clip to enable Harrison to participate in Samba class. As Harrison points out, “Having the stands means I can do the music myself and not need a grown up to help me.”
Rachel Wolffsohn, OHMI’s General Manager, adds,
“OHMI has created a framework including games to assess a child's ability to bear weight, and explore their fine and gross motor skills and breath control. We can then source the appropriate instrument or adapted equipment for the child in question.
“I’m delighted that Andrew is already putting his learning into practice. It’s vital that staff within the music hubs are able to fully assess what’s needed for children with additional needs, and make the schools aware that practical support is available.”
“What is also critical is that any assessment happens months in advance of whole-class music lessons. Our Instrument Hire Scheme has grown to include more than 300 instruments and enabling equipment but they are highly sought-after, and we often come across a child whose unique needs mean we’re required to find something new. Many of the team at OHMI have lived experience as music teachers so we’re well-versed in finding those creative solutions. We just need to raise awareness within schools and music hubs that we have the means to do so.”
OHMI’s next one-day training course will take place on 5 December 2023 in Birmingham. Please sign up here.