How does drumming translate into the well-being of children with Down’s syndrome?
Very recently, we wrote about the positive influence of drumming on autistic children, which has been proved by Dr Marcus Smith from the University of Chichester, UK (see: HERE). Today, we would like to continue the topic of our favourite musical instrument influencing the development of children with special needs.
Another condition immensely affecting children and their parents is Down’s syndrome. Also in this case, scientists and professional teachers apply therapeutic methods based on playing a drum kit or percussion instruments.
Dr Bill Matney – Assistant Professor: Division of Music Education and Music Therapy at University of Kansas – is of the opinion that there are many reasons why drumming can prove a useful therapeutic tool. Drums and percussion instruments are progressively accessible, physical, sensory, portable, socially interactive, expressive, cultural, and offer a unique aesthetic experience. What is more, a person who has never played a musical instrument in his/her life can pick up a shaker and participate in a drumming experience.
According to Dr Matney, drumming can be a powerful tool for children with special needs and help them address the following:
- Social needs: drumming (when treated as a collaborative, collective and interactive process) can help a child work on skills such as turn-taking and sharing, as well as help them feel they are part of a group contributing towards a group process.
- Communication needs: playing a drum or percussion instrument can be a useful way for a child to communicate his/her feelings and thoughts nonverbally and to listen to another person’s nonverbal communication.
- Motor skills: different playing techniques can be used to help work on different fine and gross motor skills. This can even be true for developing lower extremity strength (e.g. playing a drum kit or standing and playing a large conga drum).
- Emotional needs: participating in a drumming activity can help a child feel safe enough to express his/her feelings. Additionally, there’s nothing better for releasing anger than banging on a drum.
- Cognitive needs: by participating in a drumming group, children work on attention, impulse control, and decision-making skills.
Jude Winwood – a qualified teacher who has also been awarded a Masters in Ethnomusicology and Performance from The University of Central London (SOAS) and delivers drumming and rhythm workshops all over the UK – draws similar conclusions from her work:
“I work with the Early Years group of children with Down’s syndrome at The School for Parents in Nottingham. We drum and sing and play lots of rhythm games. My first visit to the school was in December 2016 when I was asked to deliver a drumming and singing workshop for the young children who use their services. The children responded to and interacted really well with me, and each other, during the drumming and rhythm play, so the school asked me to return to work with small groups of children with Down’s syndrome on an ongoing basis.”
One of the mothers whose children attend Jude Winwood‘s classes shares her impressions:
“The children see the drums being loaded into the playroom and already they’re singing and mimicking drumming on anything they can lay their hands on. It’s a really popular activity and gives us an opportunity to interact in a musical way with our little ones.”