James and I had been playing for a while with B (a boy of around 5 with Down’s), who had been enthusiastically playing on the xylophone. We played through a song and brought it to an end, and B carried on playing, so we picked up his tempo and played chords along to him until another piece of repertoire emerged and we played that through, B focussed intently all the while on his playing. There came a point where B very clearly stopped and gave the beaters to his mum, who remarked how impressed she was that we were able to play in such a way that made B the musician and us his accompanists, and that we played something really good that he was taking a leading part in. This felt like a ringing endorsement, that what she described is EXACTLY what we’re aiming for.
Three of us had played to a whole bay, where I had offered a teenage lad with cerebral palsy a shaker – a bit tentatively as I was not sure if he would be able to hold it and I knew his motor control would be limited. His face, however, was such a beaming welcome of the music that it felt right. He did hold the shaker and was able to move it from side to side and played exactly on the rhythm. The song ended and he handed it back. The others said their goodbyes and made to go, but I was having a strong feeling that the lad could happily play more. I decided to go with that and, rather than be led by the others, said we could do more and went back to him with the xylophone. He struggled a little with the beater (we need a thick-handled one!) but clearly enjoyed being able to make sounds as Rich played and we sang along, and his brother came along and helped him with it. Meanwhile, across the bay, Sarah had engaged a mother and child in more play with the glock. It seemed very much the right thing that I had followed my instinct there and gone back to him, and the others agreed. At this point in the apprenticeship (very few sessions left) I’m pleased to be taking a lead in this way.