Have you heard about Redhill’s Include Choir? The choir is making lots of noise! It is a group offering social and musical opportunities to those with learning and communication difficulties.
“Avez-vous la plume de ma tante, s’il vous plaît?” This polite enquiry as to the whereabouts of my aunt’s pen is the only phrase I remember from my school French lessons. Plonk me in rural France armed only with this solitary phrase and I would feel out-of-my-depth, anxious and excluded.
A simplistic example maybe, but communication with those around us is something most of us take for granted. Language differences aside, we talk and listen to others with ease, rarely giving a thought to the processes we use to make ourselves understood.
However, for some people communication on many levels is hard, whether in expressing themselves or comprehending others. Speech and language therapist, Alix Lewer, is passionate about helping those in this position become more included in society, and through the universal language of music, she has done just this, founding The Include Choir which celebrates its first anniversary this month.
It has three main aims:
- To provide social and musical opportunities for people with learning and communication disabilities
- To raise awareness of hidden communication difficulties
- To give people the communication tools to help them to support, talk to and include people with learning and communication difficulties
Alix is constantly impressed by the skills and determination of the choir members and following their performance at the National Mental Capacity Action Day was told by one senior legal adviser that the choir ‘in one witty song conveyed the principles of the act better than I have seen done in any professional training session.’
We expect organisations to provide wheelchair access for those with mobility issues, yet there is little provision made for those with an ‘invisible’ issue like communication problems.
Alix is keen to develop training sessions for companies introducing them to the inclusive tools such as Makaton, and other recognised inclusive communication techniques that they could adopt.
Makaton is a system using signs, symbols and speech to help people communicate. The signs are used, along with speech, in spoken word order. This helps provide extra clues about what
someone is saying, it is very flexible and can be personalised to an individual’s needs.
‘If music be the food of love, play on’ declared Shakespeare, and indeed music and melody connects us all, expressing and eliciting emotions in both performer and listener. As the name suggests, The Include Choir welcomes singers of all abilities, who come together for weekly workshops every Wednesday at Redhill Baptist Church (7.30pm – 9.00pm) where they sing, learn communication skills, and where each is valued for their unique contribution. They regularly meet with other local choirs so combining talents and promoting inclusion, but most of all – making friends and having fun! As one member exclaimed – “I want it to be forever and ever!”
For more information about Include Choir, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/IncludeChoir/ or, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sarah Ballingal