AMK Drum Therapy Service Group, Grade 11, East Campus
Drum Therapy with AMK MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) is a local service which strives to develop motor and coordination skills as well as the communication skills of people who are mentally challenged. By utilising fun activities primarily based on drumming, we hope to develop their motor and coordination skills, stimulate their creative side and try to formulate different rhythms with their hands. Along the way, we have faced the problem of communicating information to our clients and this is because of the fact that in terms of language they don’t understand English very well, but also being mentally challenged means they struggle with understanding signs too. Originally when we started drumming, we noticed that we couldn’t start straight away with the rhythms as they had a hard time following, so we tried to get them at the stage of just striking the drum as their first steps. Once this worked, we found that some clients were proficient in this area while others were just beginning their learning process which is something that also came as a challenge. Since some had higher capabilities than others, those that were proficient found some of the activities boring, but if we made the beats a bit harder to stimulate those with higher capabilities, others could not follow. Therefore we decided to keep the beats simple, and then let each client have a solo performance where they could showcase their own levels and have fun with making their own beats.
We feel that we have become more effective communicators through this overall experience because we had to gradually learn how to communicate to our clients in a variety of ways in order to find the more suitable / comfortable way to interact with them or to deliver instructions.
It has changed our perspective on the group we worked with and other marginalised groups like them. We have realised the difference between keeping things simple so that it’s easier for them to understand and treating them like a child, which is a line that gets blurred often. This experience allowed us to combine a hobby for many of us, music, and helping others who don’t really get access to a lot of music very often. This service is a perfect example of how one can turn their passion into service, and how there's not just one way to help a particular group of people. Spending so much time with them has allowed us to form bonds with our clients, and get to know them past their identity as someone who is mentally challenged. This experience has also instilled some good resilience in us as we had to try out many different introductory activities to drumming with them to see which one they responded to the most, and adapt other activities to their individual levels. It has given us an insight into the lives of our clients and informed us about how different activities can have a positive impact on them. It has influenced our outlook on the handicapped community; we feel that now we have a higher sensitivity towards them - in a way that we couldn’t have been if we didn’t join this service and experienced working with them hands-on.
Now we think we would focus more on attending to an individual client’s need rather than giving little attention to each client - since we learned that every client’s need was unique. We could perhaps do individual sessions where each person takes a client and adapts activities according to their level, and then we come together as a group after. After this experience overall we have become more aware of disabilities in society and how to make people with disabilities feel more welcome and encourage them to want to integrate and express themselves. We have started to look beyond our client’s disorders and have started to actually appreciate their abilities and successes that they can achieve.