20 February 2019

Learning to play the Gamelan: Examining effects on Autistic children

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Jackie Hendry, Music Teacher, tells us about her ITL project 

‘The aim of this research is to try to establish whether the short-term effects we have seen in the Gamelan sessions on children described as ‘being on the autistic spectrum’ could be expanded to help children with more complex autistic issues.

This project has to involve a number of people, some with more intensive involvement and some purely on a weekly VSU basis. The first issue was to establish some form of control study in order to provide a basis for comparison, and to this effect two of our Upper Sixth Gamelan team members of long standing have been sitting next to visiting children and observing their interaction with the Sevenoaks student team with the help of a sheet of questions. This has continued for some weeks and will continue until later in the year, giving us some useful comparison data.

On March 6th we are running a Gamelan workshop for children with a specific Autism diagnosis and their one-to-one supporters which will also be observed using the same questions, hopefully this will give us an idea as to how we proceed with the next stage of the study.

It is hoped that we can run a set of sessions for Autistic children to be manned by a team of students who have a particular interest in medicine or psychological sciences who would then report on how the visiting children had reacted to a continued Gamelan experience. This will also require some input by the schools of the visiting children to help us to monitor any behavioural or learning differences they might see in their children, the schools contacted so far have been extremely interested in this. All of us involved with the Gamelan are really looking forward to seeing the outcome of these studies’.

Further resources Gamelan Orchestra Players at the Southbank Centre London (2015)

Budi Raharja (2014) Playing Javanes Gamelan For Autism Liberation. In: The 2nd International Conference on Performing Arts 2014, Faculty of Performing Arts, Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta, 9-10 December 2014, Yogyakarta. Available online 

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