Friday, 6 December 2013

ASPIRE to create and learn

The Edge, Chorlton’s professional little Theatre and Arts Centre, presents and produces professional theatre in its 70-seat theatre space. They have been open since 2011 and audiences are growing as the community of Chorlton learn more about what goes on in the former Sunday School behind the Methodist Church on Manchester Road. The Edge also hosts and runs Workshops, Classes and Courses for all ages in all sorts of creative disciplines.

One of these is ASPIRE, a theatre project for young people with Down’s Syndrome. Supported by Hilton in the Community Foundation, ASPIRE is an opportunity for young people to learn how to perform, how to engage with new people, to concentrate and learn in a friendly, supportive environment. This is an exceptional opportunity for young people with disabilities who would not normally be able to access mainstream after-school activities.

The project has been running since September 2013 and there are 12 young people with ages ranging from 9 to 11. Each young person has individual needs and the drama practitioner works alongside volunteers with specialist skills who nurture each individual so they make the most of this opportunity. Session explore theatre games, imaginative play and singing activities designed to improve focus, group working
skills, speaking and listening skills, problem solving, perseverance, confidence, self-esteem and creativity.

In December, the group will perform a short outcome to family and friends to show how they have progressed. The outcome will be a piece devised by the group and promises to show their new skills and interests.

The parents of Luke, one of the ASPIRE participants, has recently written this inspiring Case Study.

"Luke is 9 years old and a very sociable little boy who loves to entertain. He is never happier than when he has an audience and is encouraging others to participate in his merriment. He is very confident and gregarious, and has a knack for making people laugh. He always manages to lighten a heavy atmosphere or lift a mood and never seems to run out of energy.

“Luke also has Down Syndrome. He attends the same mainstream school that his two older sisters did but although he is incredibly well included in most aspects of school life and accesses all of the learning opportunities that his peers do during school time, he has been unable to benefit as well as they have from the extensive list of extra-curricular activities or enrichment clubs provided at the school on a daily basis after lessons have finished. During school time, Luke is supported by his dedicated teaching assistant to enable him to keep on task and access the same curriculum as his peers but at a level that suits his pace and style of learning and therefore facilitates his progress and development. He studies either along with his entire class or in a smaller group, without appearing to be singled out for special attention whilst also learning to work alongside them without distracting them from their studies or dominating the teacher’s time and attention. 

“This support understandably does not continue after school hours and those of Luke’s friends who are lucky enough to enjoy the many after school activities, do so unaided and at a similar pace to each other. They listen and concentrate well when given instructions by their activity leader who is able to use the children’s age group as a guide when pitching the level of the session they are delivering. Without the right support in these situations and if activities are set at a level beyond his current reach, Luke’s excitement and enthusiasm would become a challenge for the facilitator and would inevitably have a detrimental effect on the experience for the other children.

“Earlier this year we were delighted to discover Aspire, a locally based, weekly drama group that is provided specifically for children with Down Syndrome at The Edge in Chorlton. We always knew that Luke would flourish in an environment where he was encouraged to be imaginative, where he was able to share his love of performing and where he could channel some of his incredible energy. He now looks forward to attending the group every week, where volunteers work alongside the drama teacher to keep the children focused and to encourage their participation in the sessions which are delivered with great skill and warmth, at a level accessible across the varied age groups and developmental stages of its members. As well as learning to harness his energy appropriately, Luke is becoming more attentive within a group situation and responding well to the tasks he is set. This in turn will have a positive effect on his concentration and learning at school. He is also enjoying the social aspects of pursuing an interest and making friends which are so important for living a full and rich life. Aspire has made an enormous difference to Luke in a short space of time and we look forward to him being able to benefit from this project for a long time to come!”

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