News & Events

Cedar’s music sessions: a sensory success

Posted on 22nd February 2023

Walk for Autism has provided funds to enable many life-changing projects to take place. The Cedars Community Resource Centre in Liverpool has been one of many beneficiaries ...

so we asked them about the positive impact this support has had, and dropped in on an inspirational music session.

As Activity and Engagement Lead, Ian Pettifer leads interactive music sessions at The Cedars, aiming to bring groups together and to engage with autistic people who attend the centre. Each session embraces a person-centred approach, incorporating inclusive activities that are planned to involve and inspire every member of the group.

Ian’s uplifting sessions are planned around seasonal topics, such as Halloween, Christmas and the weather. Ian provides opportunities for each participant to enhance their communication skills, self-expression and confidence with accessible activities. Each section is brought to life with sensory elements, supportive visuals and actions.

Ian said: “Funding from Walk for Autism has enabled us to purchase musical instruments and equipment - things that are vital to making these sessions a success.”

The music sessions are thoughtfully structured to support straight line thinking, variation and choice making. At the beginning, the group focuses on turn taking, which helps to support and develop wider communication skills.

Ian then introduces the ‘who is next’ activity. This is designed to encourage each individual to use their name and signs for signing and saying hello. After one person has had their turn, they have the opportunity to identify ‘who is next’, passing the turn on to somebody else. The sign along approach is used for those who would benefit from having their communication enhanced as an addition to using speech.

Attendees can recognise that a session is coming to an end when the ‘karaoke’ session begins. Ian finishes with this high energy activity to provide people with the opportunity to choose songs, use percussive instruments, and express themselves through movements such as dance or actions. The session often finishes with ‘The Hokey Cokey’ or a similar song, which is beneficial for balance, use of muscles, body language, and cognitive skills.

Ian said: “I’d sum up the sessions by using the words ‘collective’ and ‘unifying’. They highlight what we share (neurodiversity). We are all different but all bound by common characteristics.”

It has been fantastic to see the impact the sessions have had on individuals. Ian’s passion for music is infectious, and the sessions leave attendees in high spirits, and feeling more connected. The group introduces people to new experiences and creates foundations for the use of social stories in the future, which could be accompanied by music.

Ian shared how the sessions have benefited one individual in particular. “One person we work alongside has grown in self-confidence, begun to use reciprocal communication, and can now utilise and maintain numerical and literacy skills. Additionally, they enjoy singing along and are motivated by songs that incorporate their interests.”
Ian added: “Gradually, they have also made progress with sensory elements. During the first music session, they sat inside a tent, but by the third session they sat outside of the tent between two familiar members of staff with a blanket over their shoulders.”
Find out more, or to sign up for the Walk for Autism 2023 challenge
  • Ian plays at the music session
  • Communicating