Music can have a profound effect on people – it can stir emotions and the act of singing can have a liberating and joyous effect on those taking part.
In our homes for adults with learning difficulties, an entertainer and music coach visits us once a week. Known as ‘Martin the Music Man’, Martin Reeves plays a range of instruments including the guitar and ukulele, and sings songs from different eras. One of Martin’s main aims is to encourage participation and he comes equipped with all sorts of percussion instruments so that service users can join in and have fun. He makes each session as interactive as possible and many of the service users really look forward to the sessions. They have a great sense of rhythm and clearly enjoy their contribution. Music helps them to engage with their peers in ways that they may find too difficult in other circumstances. It also helps to develop concentration, participation and confidence.
Some of our service users with learning disabilities can find group activities overwhelming, so they choose to avoid the music sessions to do other activities on their own. However, by being introduced to music at their own pace, some have made remarkable progress. For example, family members, staff and a social worker commented on how one individual has vastly increased their participation and how their confidence has grown in the last year.
Our support staff first noticed that they showed more interest when the ‘Music Man’ came to the home, but still declined to take part. The support staff introduced them to some of the musical instruments used in the music session, and they gradually became more and more involved.
By offering music sessions once a week and by supporting the individual needs of our service users with learning disabilities, we find that they can take small but significant steps. This contributes to increased and sustained participation, confidence and well-being over time.