Reflections and Insights from the Dyspraxia Conference: The Other Side of the Looking Glass

 

Recently I was very fortunate to attend the Dyspraxia 2017 Conference, which was organised by the Dyspraxia Support Group of New Zealand, whose National Office is based in Christchurch (www.dyspraxia.org.nz). This year the theme of the conference was “Moving Forward: Living Positively with Developmental Dyspraxia/DCD”. Julie Wylie was one of the presenters and she led a workshop about “The Positive Power of Musical Play” and also presented a joint workshop with her colleague Alex Gosteva, entitled “The Positive Power of Musical Play and Play Therapy”.

One of the workshops I attended at the conference was called “The Art of Science and Therapeutic Play” presented by Julie Frew, who is very familiar with Julie Wylie’s work and referred to it at various times throughout her presentation. When Julie Frew spoke about the way she uses singing in her work as an Occupational Therapist to connect with, engage and motivate children to do tasks they might otherwise not be motivated to complete, it dawned on me that singing provides the perfect opportunity for children to practise speech in a playful, engaging and non-threatening way. Recently I’ve noticed that my 4 year old’s speech has become easier for other people to understand and this coincides with his newfound love of singing.

When I discussed my observations about my son’s speech clarity with Julie Wylie, who is doing a wonderful job of fostering his love of singing, she reminded me about the movie “The King’s Speech”, which tells the true story of how King George VI overcame a stammer with the help of the unorthodox methods of the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. “One of the treatments used on the King was getting him to sing the words he was having trouble speaking.” (The King’s Speech: the real story, Nigel Farndale – www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8203371/The-Kings-Speech-how-Lionel-Logue-cured-King-George-VIs-stammer.html). Lionel Logue was certainly onto something!

During the conference, several teenagers who have Dyspraxia spoke very articulately about how it has affected different aspects of their life. A quote from one of these teenagers, Alex Iggo, which was shared in a PowerPoint presentation by the Occupational Therapist Emma Ratcliff, who worked with Alex when he was younger, really struck a chord with me. It said, “You’ve only looked one way through the looking glass, but we have looked the other way”. As I reflected on this statement, as well as something Dr Susan Foster-Cohen had said earlier in the conference, along the lines of “Children make change when they are ready to make changes”, I had a glimpse of what it might be like for my 4 year old to know that he needs help with his speech, while at the same time, for very valid reasons, not being motivated, right now, to do the speech therapy homework that could help him.

As parents and professionals, all the things that might help a child to take steps in the right direction may seem obvious, but I believe we must always remember that we are “looking from the other side of the looking glass” as we try to find the best ways to help a child take the risks required to learn and embed new skills. I am so grateful that my son has discovered a joy of singing, because singing is such a powerful mechanism to facilitate language development and self expression.

In the words of Julie Wylie, “Musical play is our first language. It supports speech language development through timing, phrasing and musical form. Musical play takes out the stress of having to concentrate on all the aspects of making the sounds and words. The steady beat of songs, chants and clapping games helps the brain to become attuned to the pulse. This pulse provides moment by moment support. All songs, chants and rhymes have a steady pulse which is driven by rhythmic patterns of words and sounds. The brain really responds and tunes into these rhythmic patterns which keep the brain continually alert and curious about the ever-changing musical information. In language, the presence of pattern is very evident, especially in nursery rhymes and poetry. Consider how every word when divided into its syllabic rhythm, displays its pattern. For example, “I like o-ran-ges, I like to-ma-toes”.

Pulse or steady beat paces, drives and causes an anticipation of pattern. Pattern embellishes, teases, drives and causes the anticipation of the next beat. We can play these rhythmic patterns on our bodies or on a drum, and we can move to the rhythm of words and phrases. Rhythmic pattern is one of the most important elements in the pacing and learning of spoken language. Vocal activities in song, and the production of nonsense sounds and imitation of sounds, help to organise language articulation, breath control and auditory sequencing.” (Reference; Berger, D.S. (2002) Music Therapy, Sensory Integration and the Autistic Child. London. Jessica Kingsley Publications p.116).

To finish, here is a link to an article featuring another of the very articulate teenagers who spoke at the conference, Adam Hodgson. While the article was written a few years ago now, I believe it provides very valuable insights into the life of a person with, in Alex’s own words, “learning differences”, as we consider life “from the other side of the looking glass” http://i.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7818865/National-standards-belittle-people-like-me.

Victoria Boyd

© juliewyliemusic.com, 2017


SYDNEY EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTRES’ NATURAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR CHILDREN

This month I was invited to be a keynote speaker and presenter at the ACECEA conference in Sydney. As part of the conference, we were invited to visit Early Childhood Education Centres to look at the way they have developed beautiful outdoor learning environments.

Features at all these centres included inspirational natural learning spaces that give the children many opportunities for creating, imagining, risk taking, problem solving, experimentation, hypothesizing, researching and investigation. Within all these centres, the children have a real sense of connection, ownership and stewardship. “If we want children to be passionate about nature, they need to be involved with nature”.A child led us through a gateway to the Macquarie College Early Learning Centre Bush Garden, with tall gum trees swaying gently in the breeze. She proudly showed us a square construction of four logs that she described as a picture frame that we could have our photos taken in. She showed us a construction covered in green shade cloth that looked like a trampoline. When I asked what they used it for, several children told me that this was the place where they lay together to watch the clouds in the sky and the branches of trees swaying in the breeze, and that if I looked very carefully at the ends of two tall branches I would be able to see the nests that birds had just made and that now the birds were sitting on their nests waiting for the eggs to hatch. “We like to lie together and make up songs and stories about what we see and do you know that clouds keep changing and that a cloud elephant can go sailing by and turn into a dinosaur as the clouds change? We see lots of things in the clouds”.All the children were totally absorbed in their creative play. A branch had been cut off a tree leaving a short low V shape that was perfect for a seesaw that two children were constructing. They carried a short log and placed it in the V, only to find that the log was not long enough for their seesaw to move up and down. They enlisted the help of two more children to help them carry a longer log and together they positioned the log in a way that could help them all to get on their wonderfully constructed seesaw.There was a big hill with a narrow concreted water-course. Several boys were busy with engineering and construction using sticks, small logs and mud. They were very engaged and settled and were exploring different ways of using the water to create dams and rivers. Right alongside, was a group of little girls playing in a very simple log hut. They invited us over to come and have tea. They had a big bowl of mud and added bowls of water to get the mud to the right cake consistency. Flowers were added for decoration and we were given a plate of cake each, and told that it was ‘delicious’.In another area, a teacher was collaborating with children as they looked for caterpillars. They were using a powerful magnifying glass to examine all the details of the caterpillars. Such play inspires a sense of awe and wonder at the miracles of nature.

Newsletters, photos and children’s drawings are sent regularly to families, illustrating highlights of the children’s play. Parents tend to stay longer watching the children as they chat to each other. There is a real sense of timelessness and freedom. There are no time constraints on the children’s play.Play is building memories, laying the foundation for creative thinking, imagination, agility, conservation, co-operation, compassion and self-confidence. Play in the outdoor environment awakens the senses and is important for healthy brain development, causing the brain to release feel good chemicals like serotonin, adrenalin, glutamate and dopamine, that orchestrate nerve development, neural pathways and alignment all over the brain.

These busy, productive children are learning about the world and how to interact with nature and with each other in a caring, co-operative, co-creative way. It is giving them a strong awareness of where others are in relation to themselves. Their play teaches them social skills, to be courageous, to learn rules, to establish boundaries, to care for others and to lead and to follow.

Natural learning environments help children’s aesthetic, creative, imaginative, spiritual and sensory development. Through play, they naturally tune into the sounds of nature, marveling at the colours, shapes and patterns with a sense of joy and wonder. They develop the ability to dream and turn their dreams into reality. Literacy, numeracy and communication can become a natural part of co-operative, collaborative play with the support of their teachers.Providing natural learning environments such as these for children is a social investment that promotes a caring, loving society, nurturing the scientists, environmentalists, artists, musicians, creative thinkers and problem solvers of the future.

© Julie Wylie Musical Play, 2017


THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF IMAGINATIVE MUSICAL PLAY IN THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT: WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT

Stories and Musical Play go hand in hand. We have been using the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” each week this term with our children 2-5 years. Parents have reported that their children have been inspired to recreate this story in so many ways. One family had their coffee table transformed into a cave with a blanket placed over the top to make the cave. The children acted out this story every night before bed time and started adding their own sequences to the story.

Another family created their own story, “We’re Going on a Beach Hunt”. They found a cave, imagined that there was a bear, and collected sticks, shells, colourful stones and driftwood treasure, which they took home to add to their musical sounds treasure box.

Yet another family had a Bear Hunt as their birthday party theme. They had a birthday cake with a Bear on top, they had a teddy bears’ picnic and played several of my teddy bear songs including “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” and “I’ve Got a Teddy Bear”.

Such play extends children’s creative thinking, problem solving, language development, rhythmic patterning and musical skills. When families join in such play it builds special bonds and memories that can last a lifetime.

© Julie Wylie, 2017


The Parallels between Art and Musical Play

Click HERE to access Julie’s writing on this subject from 20th January 2016.


DEEP PRESSURE TOUCH STIMULATION AND CALMING SONGS

Many of my songs on my CDs are designed to bring children into a place of calm and relaxation. Songs that arouse, then calm, like “Baby Massage” from my CD “Rock-A-Bye Blues” help you and your child to relax and encourage mutual feelings of calm through the use of the beautiful predictable simple melody and deep pressure massage strokes. Deep pressure cuddles using the palms of your hands, (not finger tips) as you hold and cuddle your child, help your child feel safe and secure, helping your child go to sleep.

The science supporting use of deep pressure touch is called Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation (DPTS). Most of us would have would have been swaddled/wrapped tightly in a blanket at bedtime, and we might then have been rocked gently as our mother/father or grandparent sang us a lullaby. The pressure from being wrapped, rocked, stroked and sung to relaxes the nervous system. This pressure from being wrapped and held in a loving way helps generate serotonin, which then generates to melatonin. This is the chemical that tells your system that it is time to rest or sleep.

At the Champion Centre we find that children who are anxious or upset can be calmed through the use of massage, slow singing, or being gently rolled in a mat, covered with a weighted blanket. We all find that at the end of Summer we can sleep more easily when we can once more feel the weight of our duvet or a thick comforting blanket, or wrap ourselves up in a blanket and enjoy a soothing hot drink as we cuddle back into a comfortable chair.

Other strategies that can be used:
The slow, blowing of a bubble, or a feather. This naturally slows our breathing rate. As a child watches, listens to your slow breathing, waits and watches the bubble grow, they learn to become calm and regulated. This is a beautiful, interactive calming activity that can be used as a regular routine after bath-time and before bed-time.

Developing regular daily calming routines such as:

Singing beautiful songs and playing at bath time. Make this a relaxing fun time to enjoy each other.
Singing a book of lullabies, nursery rhymes, reading rhythmic stories, rocking together in a rocking chair, singing to your child as they rock on a rocking horse. Rolling a ball slowly back and forth to each other.

Swinging your child in a swing and singing songs that fit the swinging action.

At the end of each day take time for deep pressure massage and cuddles before bedtime.

A well regulated child is able to learn and develop cognitive skills because the lower brain is calm and regulated.

© Julie Wylie, 27 June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 


HOOPS FOR SPATIAL AWARENESS AND MUSICAL PLAY

Hoops are a wonderful music prop and can be used in so many creative ways within musical play for circle dancing, spatial awareness, understanding prepositions such as up, down, in out, through, under/over.
We have been singing the children’s ideas such as being in our space ships, rocket, bus, pirate ship.
We have been composing our own individual tunes which Tamara accompanies on the flute. As children move up and down the 5 note or octave of hoops, they choose which “notes” to play. These notes are sung and played as the child moves slowly/quickly, thus reinforcing children’s innate musicality, listening, watching, waiting, creativity and building their self esteem. Every child’s idea is valued, there is no right or wrong way to play.
Parents report that their child is singing and playing music games all the time at home. They regularly involve the family and delight in being the leader.
© Julie Wylie, 22 June 2017

MUSICAL PLAY IS THE KEY FOR WELL-BEING, EMOTIONAL CONNECTION AND BRINGING CULTURES TOGETHER

Reflections from my recent invitation to present my musical play philosophy in North China. Julie Wylie. Copyright 2017.

I have worked with many children, families and teachers in different parts of the world, and once again my trip to China demonstrated clearly how music can brings families, communities, society and cultures together. It doesn’t matter if we can’t speak the same language, when we sing, dance and play together, we are all united through the infectious, universal, emotional, joyful language of music.

Children everywhere have the same wonderful response to music, especially when they can participate freely responding to the predictable structure of musical form and the expressive elements of music which unite us as a group. The children I worked with in two very large pre schools were so excited when we sat around the rainbow ring and bounced in time singing echo songs and improvising with sounds, gestures and movement. Some children went into the middle of the circle and were so full of joy when I copied their actions. Teachers were amazed that there clearly was no right or wrong way to play. The secret was  total enjoyment through predictable songs with a clear beginning, middle and end. Every child responded to our play and stop games with the extended pauses. Every child responded to our improvisations, that incorporate elements of surprise, anticipation and stop! Soon many of the children were singing their versions of “Bop it in the Rocket”.
I used playful music games with pitch and rhythmic patterning designed to help the children to read the words, to experience the melodic shape of the pitches through pitch games and to sing the tune from the simple notation. Although we are from different cultures,these children in China, like ours in New Zealand, were using creative and analytical thinking, coding and simple reading/literacy skills to read the pitch, notation and words. We focus so much on literacy and numeracy in our schools, but music helps memory and is the only language that helps children to decode three symbolic languages simultaneously!

At the end of one large music session, every single child came up and one by one they hugged me. I looked around at all the parents and grandparents and they we all nodding and smiling at me. I was invited to people’s homes and experienced wonderful hospitality. Two distinct cultural groups came together to sing, dance, say and play together. Many of the children were experiencing a range of rhythmic songs, dances and words from the English language. We were altogether in the moment and they were singing, clapping and dancing along, even though the words were strange.

Every time I presented music sessions in China, whether it was for families, children or teachers, something magical happened. We were all connected in a very powerful way. We experienced how music naturally brings a strong sense of harmony, of connection and well being. Music activates our brains and releases feel-good hormones like dopamine. Music is a natural part of our humanity and draws us together in incredible ways. When I was sharing my music in China I felt completely at home. Regardless of our culture, our backgrounds, music binds us together, breaking down barriers,  opening up rich experiences of creativity, imagination, communication and love.

 

 


I WONDER WHERE YOU ARE HIDING

I WONDER WHERE YOU ARE HIDING. Julie Wylie copyright 2017

Organza is a beautiful prop to use in music to promote interactive, relationship based musical play between parent and child, to help pitch awareness as we sing up and down the major and minor scales, floating the organza, teaching children about prepositions through sensory experiences such going around,  over, under, between, inside, outside. Social skills are developed as children play follow the leader games going under the red, blue, green or the rainbow. Langue skills, concepts of colours, numbers, spatial awareness and creativity develop when children come up with their own ideas.

Babies love the beautiful peek-a-boo games with their parents. These are the babies’ first games which help to develop understanding of the world of pretend. I know you are there, but where are you? I see Mummy peek out from behind her hands. Such games promote watching, waiting, listening and anticipation and loving interaction and relationship and what a special moment when the baby sings the answering “Boo!”

Here is a beautiful family joining in our hiding game:

I wonder where you are hiding

I wonder where you are hiding

Where are you?

Where are you?

Peek a peek a peek a peek a Boo!

Julie Wylie 2017


THE MUSICAL LIFE OF A TWO YEAR OLD.

 

Quinn started coming to my musical play classes when he was about three months old. The emphasis in the baby class was on developing a strong musical relationship  between parent and child. Lap games were played,  with parents gently bouncing or rocking their baby, or dancing with their baby in time to specific songs using ascending and descending pitches, play and stop songs, peek a boo songs and nursery rhymes. The music sessions  include much use of repetition and predictable music structure in each music session, in order to to develop  listening, anticipation, timing and joyful synchronous play between parent and child.All instructions are sung and there is much use of echo songs, so that there is a seamless musical flow in every class.

Quinn watched everything and listened very intently from the start. Like many of the other babies in the class he was soon bouncing in time using whole body movements in time to the songs. He would respond to the musical pauses and could stop for the music cues.  At home he would dance in time to the sound of the washing machine and immediately tune in to all things musical, both inside and outside. When Quinn began crawling, he began to take the music lead, often crawling into the middle of the group around the rainbow ring and would delight in moving and playing and having me sing about what he was doing moment by moment such as Quinn is waving, bouncing, crawling, toddling, or dancing In the middle. Even at a very young age He was able to follow simple sung instructions such as “going back to mummy now”.

Quinn has always been extremely interested in the piano or keyboard and delights in sitting alongside me as I play for the  group. He initially sat watching my hand positions and listening intently. Now aged two and three quarter years,  he is able to find a note or notes within my pitch range and play very softly alongside me. He began watching how I played the foot pedal. This resulted in him sitting under the grand piano or sitting by the pedal if I was playing a keyboard. During the last session Quinn  wanted to do all my piano pedalling, nearly all of it in time and with a great approximation of how I use the pedal to enhance musical expression and to sustain certain notes.

Quinn plays in time, uses rhythmic patterns, is very aware of pitch and melodic contours, he sings, moves and plays musically. He often conducts my movements using hand and arm gestures, or the ribbon stick. He is highly engaged and involved in musical play. When I sang for the children to go back to their places recently, instead of going to his mother as all the other children did, Quinn hurried to my side and climbed up onto the music stool and beamed at me with such a look of pride and purpose as we played the “Goodbye Song” together.

His mother reports that all his play is musical. His parents are his musical play partners. Everything he does at home involves some aspect of musical play. He is constantly exploring sounds and sound making, creating his own little songs, rhythmic patterns, asking and singing  questions about songs and music that his parents are listening to.

The child is music leader. All these early sensory, musical play experiences help them to incorporate the elements of music into their own play, so that they learn to move fluidly, with a great sense of timing, spatial awareness, able to listen to and copy patterns and to create their own. There is a sense of wonder, delight, emotional connection, creativity and expressiveness in all their musical interactions.

It is precisely this kind of musical play that enables the child to progress to playing an instrument. Quinn is developing a musical passion that will be with him throughout his life. I wonder where Quinn will go to with his music? Will he be like so many of my music children who are now principal players in orchestras, choirs,  jazz performers, singers, music teachers, or involved in music research? Quinn is a music child and it is my  absolute delight in playing with him musically and helping him on his musical journey.


INDULGE IN PLAY, IT IS SO IMPORTANT FOR US AND OUR CHILDREN

When we play and really enjoy the lost in the moment playful activities, our brains release the chemical dopamine that gives us a sense of excitement, joy and allows us to move in a highly coordinated way. Play stimulates our senses, creativity, learning. It activates our brains, with over 80% of our nervous system involved in processing and organising  all the sensory input from our bodies and the surrounding environment.

Play with your child and give them many rich sensory experiences within a secure, nurturing environment. Appreciate nature. Look at the moon, a sunrise, a beautiful sky. Go to the beach, swim together, play in the park, go for walks to new and interesting places, climb a hill, trees, explore, make up songs, stories, dance, read, go to the library, cook together, collect treasure, make things with the treasure you find.  Move, dance, sing and play. Playing keeps you young and vibrant. When we are playful we are flexible,relaxed, loving, sociable, creative. We can take risks, we can come up with new ideas. Taking time out to play helps us to problem solve and come up with new solutions and new ways of doing things.

Children learn the art of play. They learn how to do things in a variety of ways and how to adapt to changes. They learn to play alone or with others. They learn how to lead and how to follow.  They learn the rules of play and can also create new rules of their own in a playful game. Through play we learn to let go of the things that are stressful. Play involves laughter, humour, sharing and caring.  Wonderful carefree play builds strong, positive memories that stay with us for life.

Babies are play partners from birth. Play is as important for them as food and sleep. Play gives babies and children a strong sense of belonging, connection and wellbeing.  When parents spend much time gazing at, talking,singing, dancing playing, touching, holding their baby, this helps healthy brain development, promoting high levels of oxytocin and endorphins in the brain. Play fosters a strong loving relationship which is essential for helping children to become confident, caring, creative, self assured and loving members of society.

Take time to play, to laugh, to make music, to enjoy the wonders of nature, be flexible and enjoy all the rich playful experiences together. It will build strong bonds of love, energise, inspire, enrich your life and your soul.


Testimonials

Julie, I just wanted to tell you about our car trip last week. My almost one year old and I were listening to your CD ‘Rock a Bye Blues’and when the children on the CD laughed I could hear Elijah giggling too. Then when you were singing quietly pah pah pah i could hear a little quiet voice from the back seat copying. Well I was amused by now and as I listened when twinkle twinkle little star came on he even sang a few notes. I just couldn’t stop smiling and I thought Julie really has it right. Your music classes that we attend and the CD’s are just fabulous and aimed perfectly for babies and preschoolers. Lovely to see what a wonderful impact your music is having in enriching our sons life.

Victoria Niha, Parent
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