Beverley School is a specialist school and college in Middlesbrough for pupils with Autism and has a very successful school choir. All members of the choir have severe autism with asociated learning difficulties and find singing enjoyable, and motivating. Singing is something that gives them a focus and helps to build confidence and self esteem. One of the young people in this video was an elective mute at school but he has been a member of the group for eight years and very often sings solo using a microphone and most recently played the part of Rolf in the School Musical Theatre Group Production of The Sound of Music alongside his choir peers.
The choir was first set up in September 2005 to support a small group of primary pupils who were having difficulties with the social demands of playtime after lunch and very quickly became successful performing regularly in school concerts and assemblies. Five of the pupils shown in the video are the very first members of the group and still very enthuiastic performers today clocking up a total of 8 years service each never missing rehearsals and represent school regularly in the local community events. These have included Autism Awareness Conferences , School Achievement Celebrations, Big ommunity Carol Sings, they also support many local charity events such as Marie Curie Daffodil Appeals and Teesside Hospice Fundraisers all of which is in their own time usually on weekends and evenings performing for the community often outside in extremely cold and horrible weather conditions. Family support is fantastic and a vital part to this successful group.
Over the years they have been awarded the Gold and Prestigious Platinum Singup Award and recieved a special mention in the schools Ofsted Inspection Report 2010 after Inspectors described their singing as Spiritual and Moving.
Progression has been amazing and the group recently staged their very first theatre production Beverley Musical Theatre Group presents Their Sound of Music outstanding performances over two evenings to a very large audience reducing many to tears. School alongside parents and families were extremely proud of their achievements. A large group of staff gave their time willingly to support this big venture and it united the whole school community for this special occasion.
The choir learn songs by singing along to recordings which are played for them a quite a loud volume! The lyrics are shown on the whiteboard but this is also adapted using a writing with symbols to support those with reading difficulties if required.This gives them the confidence to sing along without worrying about whether people will be listening to any mistakes. The group always learn the words to songs quickly and progress to using a backing track in a very short space of time as shown in this video.
The aim and ethos used is to embed Music and Singing across the whole school curriculum with special emphasis to PHSE and SEAL. Many songs are chosen to build confidence, self esteem self belief and to support friendship and social skills which is an extremely difficult task for those on the Autism Spectrum. Sensory Impairements need to be addressed also Spacial Awareness can often be a problem. One young man finds it extremely difficult to stand still for even a short space of time and a really effective strategy was to use coloured P.E spots to identify each pupils space in the performing choir group. Most of the group learned very quickly to use their space when the spots were removed however for the person mentioned still requires the spot which helps him to stay in his place and evidence can be seen in the video.
The choir now have a huge repertoire of songs to support all subjects thanks to their involvement with Singup over the years and they also understand what they are singing about rather than just singing words.They are encouraged to contribute ideas and share ways to improve. Older pupils support the younger pupils giving them a sense of responsibilty and the recent production has forged a huge bond within the group and friendship skills have improved dramatically they have very much become ( a choir family ) supported and promoted by the storyline.
The Beverley School Choir really enjoy performing together especially in the community and it gives a great opportunity to raise much needed awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder and encourage those with similar talents or interests to just give it a go but most importantly have fun and enjoy it.