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Special Music and Drama

- with children and youngsters demanding special education

Special Music and Drama with special children and youngsters is the title of an approx. 40 pages long report, written by Mogens Christensen. It is a documentation of Cand. Musicae and project leader Birgitte Antonius’ artistically based project run in several special schools. The project was a co-operation project between musician Peter Rønn and the actress Gudrun Exner, as well as special schools/clubs for children and youth with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Esbjerg Culture Schools’ drama class.

The offer of arts-related projects of a long-term duration hardly ever hit the schools for specially gifted children. For this project a number of schools and clubs had been selected, where the children and youngsters were generally physically well, and normally gifted. Because of their Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome they would experience the world in another way than their peers. This further caused that part of these children looked upon themselves as a problem like “I am strange, I am stupid, I can get no friends”. Through this project of 6 months’ duration, intensive work was done with these children in order to help them find a way to express the way they looked at the world through music/sound and drama. The choice of music/sound (not word-based) and drama (word-based) was able to open up to as many approaches as possible.

There does not exist a lot of documented experience with the “effect” of artistically/aesthetic influence on this type of children and youth, and for this reason the project was further increased by a research in order to find out if, through intensive engagement over a long time with the combination of creative and performative arts, these children and youngsters might be helped to qualify their both aestetic and existential options, and on this basis to make choices.

By helping the pupils to choose and qualify any starting point, however simple, – a sound, a rhythm, a sentence – and by continuing to “guild” the option selected, they received help to make their own choices in life, and to train their independence. – This process, as well as the constant assistance in qualification given by grown-ups with a knowledge of arts, helped enhance the pupils’ self confidence, and let them find new and positive sides of themselves – not only artistic sides, but sides of what art is growing from: existence.

The project received support from Kulturaftale Vadehavet, Kunstrådet (Artist-in-residence rules, and the Musikudvalget), Varde Kommune (local municipality), and the report was financed by the Trygfonden.

See Danish journal Kristeligt Dagblad’s article (also in Danish only)
Elever fra speicalklasser blomstrer gennem musik og drama (Pupils from special classes flourish through music and drama)

Photographer: Niels Linneberg (part of the children in the photos are from the Esbjerg Culture School’s drama class and do not suffer autism)