Westminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities

WSPLD   Youth Transition Projects

I was module leader and project manager for  three youth transition projects. I worked with marginalised young adults with challenging behaviours to involve them with arts projects. I designed and led three projects, Changes, Challenges and Choices, Maze of Maps and Communicating Choices. All projects were bespoke for hard to reach, non-verbal teenagers. Working with each individual and their support staff, I designed the project around engaging them in art practices, creating new purpose and ways of being understood in effective ways.

 

Spring 2015  Communicating Choices

The Background

Communication links our world to other peoples; gradually over time we learn to understand and to find ways to be understood. From body language and behaviours, both subtle and challenging, to verbal words, noises and sounds. From objects of reference to pictures and symbols, to taking someone to what you want or need, our worlds offers many ways to communicate.

 The project

Communicating Choices was a project designed for teenagers between the ages of 14-18. The project focused on how each young person chose to communicate and how that affects the choices they make. Each participant were offered and invited to join activities that enabled them to chose, to get to know new people, places, and discover activities that sparked their curiosity and intrigued them. From choosing lunch and what to eat at snack, to going to the shops to buy it. From water play, bubbles, story telling and being outside, to choosing music in the sensory room.

During the project collaboratively with staff and teenagers, we were creating a communication passport with each teenager. Each passport had a living organic feel to it, a sort of scrapbook, which invited family, friends and key workers to get to know individual’s ways of communicating, their likes and dislikes, and their can-dos.

I invited staff to read the participant’s bouncing movements, their guiding hands, their bubbling vocalisations, their gentle and knowing eyes, the symbols and objects they get given, and not relying on the verbal spoken word. Communicating Choices through being verbal and non-verbal invited and enabled these teenagers to be understood in ways that are easier, calmer and accessible.

Summer 2014  Maze of Maps 

Maze of Maps was designed to track and follow the pathways and routes of each of the ten members of WSPLD Youth Sessions. Using coloured easy-peel electrical tape we followed each member around the space, taping to the floor their pathways. Each individual’s journey became a map: the maps began to overlap, to weave in and out of rooms, up and down corridors and criss-cross at junctions.
 
The needs of the group were diverse, some members were supported by one or two workers, some were able to independently map their own route, some require verbal guidance while others bounced, ran or tiptoed along to the music while workers tracked their pathway! We had circles and kaleidoscope shapes from wheelchair users and followed the vocal patterns of one member who stayed in her favourite room.  
 
For some members the maze of maps became pathways for choreography for dances to grow. They worked with 2 performers to create short pieces of choreography that responded to individual pathways or the larger maze of maps. Others transferred their map onto big sheets of foam board to create personalised artwork, slowly building over the 4 week.
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