Susie: Chopin and Yellow Silk

ChopinSusie, a woman in her forties had learning disabilities and had difficulty expressing herself.  Her mother, with whom she had lived, had passed away two years earlier and since that time Susie had lived in a residential home with four other women  she hadn’t previously known.  Susie was referred to me because the care staff in the home were unable to cope with her angry outbursts after a period of withdrawal and had put her on medication for depression.  I spent several sessions getting to know Susie; she loved the swathes of rainbow coloured silk that I took with me on each visit and chose to wrap herself in a silk of sunshine yellow.  She would then stand infront of a full length mirror, admiring her reflection.

We can feel the specific vibration of a colour as well as see it because each colour vibrates at a specific frequency on the rainbow spectrum. We are intuitively drawn to the colour we most need to redress any imbalance within.  Our choice of colour is indicative of our emotional state at the time.

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Vocal Toning: Rainbow Chakra Tones

Toning is an ancient and powerful method of using the voice. The toning process energises the brain and stimulates and regenerates the central nervous system to activate the body’s own self-healing mechanism.  Ancient cultures in both the northern and southern hemisphere understood the law of vibration and recognised sound as energy in motion, acknowledging that everything vibrates at its own frequency, whether a cell within our body, a flower in our garden or a star in the galaxies. Indigenous people felt and appreciated the impact of sound upon the body, the community and the environment, particularly when focused effectively.   This is the principle behind toning.

 The pioneering work of Professor Alfred Tomatis (1920 – 2001) a French physician, psychologist and educator has had a revolutionary impact on our understanding of the ear and subsequently the voice. This has deepened my perception of communication impairment and inspired my research into the relationship between the ear, heart and voice and their link to consciousness. Tomatis believed that we can only voice what we hear and therefore we need to improve our listening ability. It is my understanding that any sound we make ourselves, even humming, nourishes the auditory cortex of the brain and is of higher value than any other sound.

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Jean: A Musical Memory

MOZARTMusic has had a marked impact on the life of many of my clients with learning disabilities.  I particularly remember one lady, who was referred to me because, although she was forty- four, she had never spoken.  However, staff in her residential home believed that Jean understood most of what was said to her.  One of seven children, she was small and dark haired with pronounced scoliosis of the spine which affected her mobility.  Jean lived in a residential care home with five other men and women of similar age and ability. Her favourite occupation was brushing the hair of a resident or member of staff, whether they liked it or not.  Communication consisted of gestures and pointing to make her wishes known or if not understood, she would pull a member of staff towards the desired object . A wave of the hand meant she was either tired or going outside.  Jean  screamed and threw objects to gain attention or when frustrated. Somewhat disconcertingly, she had a permanent smile on her face which belied her mischievous intentions and confused those around her.  There was little family contact, primarily because of their discomfort in not being able to make sense of Jean’s communication.

On my initial visit to see Jean, the radio in the kitchen was tuned into a popular station because overwrought staff had made the assumption that their preferred choice of music was also that of the residents.  In the sitting room, the television was switched on, providing a constant drone of  background voices, peppered with  repetitive advertisements.  At the time of my visit, there was only one CD player for communal use.  The CD player was placed in the sitting room and because residents did not have their own personal CD players, there was little opportunity to discover  musical preferences.

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Restoring Peace to the Home

My experience as a foster mother of young children and also as a speech and language therapist in community and hospital clinics,  had shown me that behaviour problems inhibit other aspects of development.  I eventually left my profession in search of another, simpler way of working with adults and children with complex needs.  Having studied the principles of healing and taught holistic therapies, my perception and approach has shifted radically.

Parents often cry out for help as they struggle to assert their authority, fearing that they may add to the difficulties that their child is already experiencing.  I have endeavoured to reassure parents that this is usually not the case because once the child begins to control their behaviour within established parameters with the realisation that it’s their parents who are in charge not them, other problems often resolve amazingly quickly. This usually leads to a general improvement in all aspects of communication. + Read More

Angela Finds Her Voice

Angela was a tall, frail looking woman in her forties with dark hair and hunched shoulders.  She spoke in a whisper and rarely made eye contact. Whenever Angela left the residential home in which she lived, she clung to her support worker, linking arms wherever they walked. She had been diagnosed with a genetic condition which limited her cognitive ability and affected muscular coordination. Her hands shook and she was often wobbly on her feet. Lacking confidence, Angela rarely spoke above a whisper and her care staff told me that  they were concerned because she ate very little, becoming aggressive if pressured  to eat or do anything she didn’t want to do.  She was reluctant to talk to people, preferring to spend long periods in her room lying on her bed seemingly exhausted. Angela’s boyfriend had tragically died of heart failure a year earlier, I was told that the subject was never mentioned by Angela or the care staff within the home because they  were afraid of upsetting her. This flagged up an area of concern. + Read More

A Shocking Silence

Billy was thirty five years old when we met, he lived in a residential care home with two other men who had severe learning disabilities. I was told, ‘Billy doesn’t talk, he hasn’t said anything for years’. When I questioned further, they believed that he understood what was said to him.

Tragically, when Billy was sixteen years old, a terrible thing had happened which shook his family to its core. His elder sister, Mary, was attacked and murdered when walking home after a night out with friends. The effect on Billy and his parents was catastrophic. Emotionally traumatised, he withdrew into himself. His grief stricken parents were  unable to console him and offer the comfort he desperately needed. Medication had no effect on Billy’s mental state and a psychiatrist recommended ECT, electroconvulsive therapy. Billy’s parents told me that Billy had been afraid and had not wanted this option but swayed by medical opinion, they had gone against their better judgement and had allowed the treatment to go ahead. The consequences for Billy were devastating.

The series of electric shocks rendered Billy helpless and unable to function. He became immobile, totally passive, unable to feed or dress himself, emotionally and physically dependent and unable to communicate. Debilitated by their own grief, his parents were unable to cope with the extra burden of looking after him.  Devastated by the loss of not only their daughter but also their son, they reluctantly placed him in a community home for adults with learning disabilities. + Read More

Healing for Adults with Learning Disability.

Working-with-Client-1EMPOWERING THE CLIENT

Orthodox symptom focused therapy that endeavours to address impaired communication and social interaction, will not be effective in the long term, unless the feelings of the client and their support team are acknowledged, accepted and prioritised.  Initially, as a speech and language therapist and later as principal and senior tutor therapist of the Academy of Spiritual Sciences, I discovered the importance of offering disadvantaged adults a plethora of positive creative choices.  This offered  a different experience which impacted positively on every aspect of their life.

MEMORY AND PERCEPTION

Unreleased negative memory from past experience is held within our cells and within the subtle energetic field (aura) which envelops and nourishes the physical body.  These memories are continually being triggered and reinforced by events and interactions in everyday life and this ‘kick starts’ automatic behavioural response. Our view of the world is restricted by our beliefs which are influenced and shaped by earlier experience which is unrelated to current circumstances.  This can skew our perception of the world.  We all make  choices which are dependent on what we perceive to be true. In order to choose and respond differently, we must make a conscious effort to re evaluate our current circumstances and respond in a way that is not sub consciously programmed by past events.  Easier said than done!

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Caroline’s Turn

Throat-ToneCaroline was a forty six year old woman, who was referred by her doctor because of learning difficulties and deafness. The doctor hoped that any attempt to improve Caroline’s pronunciation of speech sounds would improve her communication and quality of life.

Caroline had had a cleft palate repair as a child and lack of oxygen during the repair had left her with a marked speech impediment. To communicate Caroline used a combination of gesture, signing (Makaton – a language programme using signs and symbols) and speech. Her speech was muffled and unclear due to the excessive nasal resonance caused by the cleft in her palate, although her articulation of single words was clearer than connected speech (sentences). + Read More

Missing Grandma

Ten year old Henry, was referred to me by his paediatrician who was concerned about his deteriorating health.  She  wondered if Henry was still grieving for his grandmother, who had unexpectedly died twelve months earlier. Henry had had a close relationship with his Grandma and both he and his mother would have been traumatised by her sudden disappearance from their lives. I was told that Henry used a wheelchair because of poor mobility and coordination. His paediatrician believed that his understanding of speech was limited and informed me that Henry made sounds to communicate rather than words.  He had a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder.

Henry must certainly have been struggling to make sense of his new living arrangements because I discovered that his family i.e. his mother, her partner and his maternal aunt, had all moved into his grandmother’s house after her death.  It was therefore a house full of memories for them all.  Henry’s mother was also having difficulty coming to terms with the loss of her own mother and family members were adjusting to living together for the first time in somewhat bizarre circumstances.

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My name’s Norman

Norman, a forty eight year old man with learning disabilities, was also blind.  He was small in stature and looked permanently worried. I was told that his vision had been severely impaired after he had sustained a detached retina in both eyes at the age of 43. Unfortunately, he had refused to stay in bed after the operation and as a result his vision had not returned.  Norman had been incarcerated in a large asylum hospital from the age of six.  He was eventually discharged from the hospital in the late 1980s. When we met he had moved to a small group home in the community with two other men, where he received 24 hour monitoring and assistance.

His care staff requested my help because they were concerned. Norman was becoming increasingly disinterested in walking and was in danger of losing his mobility. The staff team were also worried about Norman’s behaviour because although he enjoyed being outside on a summer’s day and would stand at the garden fence in the sunshine, his mood would change suddenly if he was disturbed . When this happened, he would lose his temper, kick over garden pots and pull up flowers. + Read More

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