Uniquely Me & U have had a busy, enjoyable year. Members have been developing steadily at their own pace, through the opportunities of art and music. There has been wonderful progress in their confidence, communication and social skills.
When we introduced the camera and screen or ‘television’, as members relate to it as. Has proven beyond expectation, the positive effect on building confidence skills. Using the equipment has given us different ideas on how further to encourage members to develop their skills.
It is used in art, to let members see themselves and hold up their art, and talk about it. This is helping with eye contact. An issue that people with autism/learning disabilities experience, and have difficulties with.
We are continuing to encourage them to do this. It also helps them with communication skills. When we have events that invite the public, they may not feel so worried and not able to cope. Again, having ‘strangers’ around them can cause upset/stress for them.
By continuing to develop social skills, and seeing the progress for example, when the Mayor of Tamworth came to visit us. They were all prepared and were looking forward to meeting him. The day went very well, and everyone enjoyed his visit.
In our Music Express and Sounds of Music group. The camera and screen ‘television’, is having beneficial outcomes in a number of ways. By using their creative art pictures to display while singing , has proven to be a wonderful way for them to connect art and music.
They can see their pictures on the ‘television’ while singing, and it gives them a sense of achievement. Builds their confidence, especially for non-verbal members who like to listen to their songs. They feel part of the group, and create their own art pictures.
Another idea Uniquely Me & U has been encouraging. Is expression through actions/movements. It is being enjoyed very much. They can see themselves dancing, moving, doing different actions as they sing or just enjoying expressing themselves through movement. Is helping them to enjoy music in a variety of ways.
One member who likes drawing/painting pictures in our art group to use in the Music Express and Sounds of Music groups. Did some masks. A tiger mask and a cat mask, that he likes to wear when singing Tiger Feet, and What’s New Pussycat. This is amazing progress for him. Being autistic, they can find it extremely difficult to understand reality and imagination. For him to want to paint and wear a mask that he can relate to his songs, is something I his mother thought I would never see. It is a huge step forward for him, and can be continued and encouraged to help him express himself, his feelings in other ways, due to his difficulties in verbal skills.
Having a variety of musical instruments for members to explore. They can enjoy sounds and use instruments of their choice. It is bringing out hidden talents by being given the opportunity.
The progress my son has made playing the keyboard, and being able to take part in a concert to raise money for Uniquely Me & U. An achievement that would have seemed impossible before having the opportunity to bring out his talents. He was nervous by different people around him, but played the tunes he had been learning, and enjoyed the applause at the end. For him to have been taking part and learning to play a musical instrument, has proven that by giving our members the opportunity, they can achieve. Forming Uniquely Me & U has helped not just my son, but others too, to bring out their talents in a variety of ways.
The main reason I formed Uniquely Me & U, was to help my son have somewhere to go and socialise, in a safe and happy environment. Almost 5 years later. I did not expect to see so many amazing, wonderful outcomes, that has made it all worthwhile, and the motivation to continue.
The teamwork and friendships that have been building and has taken time to develop. As members have got to know each other, and likes/dislikes and individualities. They feel confident and their social skills have improved that they can discuss things as a group. Issues that have happened in their daily lives. Sometimes upsetting, that they want to express their feelings to the group. I would like to give an example of the caring, and compassion that has developed between our members.
One member whose aunt died, and had upset him very much. Being able to talk about it to the group helped him to cope. Members went up to him to comfort him, and reassure him. This was lovely to see, as there was no prompting. The comforting comments and actions showed how they were caring for each other, and sensitive to the feelings of people that have come to know and care about. A member again without prompting said ‘we are a family, and look after each other’. This expression of her feelings and thoughts on how she sees the group. It was quite emotional and a wonderful moment of confirmation of how Uniquely Me & U is progressing.
Another example of a member being able to express his feelings to the group, after a very stressful and worrying event of a family member needing an ambulance to go to hospital. By being able to talk to the group about it and being comforted by words and actions. He was able to carry on after a while with his activities.
By allowing our members to be themselves, and accepting and respecting one another. They are developing in a caring and compassionate way, as well as the many others skills.
When another autistic member joined us, she would have to sit at her own table by herself, and not want to join the others. Over time, she gained the confidence to sit with other members at their table. Again, she chose when the time was right for her. Then gradually she wanted to get up and sing. She began to try different musical instruments and finding ones she liked to play. She was feeling part of the group and wanted to sing along with the others.
In November it was her birthday. We got her a cake and present. Sang happy birthday, which she really enjoyed. We kept the occasion calm, and not too overwhelming for her. At the end of the group, she came up to me to give me a kiss and say thank you. She also, did the same to another volunteer.
This was absolutely amazing. As she does not like anyone to near her. It showed that she felt happy and confident to be herself, and express her feelings.
Again, wonderful and positive outcomes Uniquely Me & U is having. At the Christmas party, she got up to dance without anyone prompting her. Which was showing how her social skills are improving.
Uniquely Me & U are looking forward to the new year, and further progression of our members through the enjoyment of art and music.
Being a small group is an important factor that helps with confidence, communication, social and teamwork skills. The positive outcomes and motivation by our members and volunteers will continue to move Uniquely Me & U forward.