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Exploring belonging through art

Hello, I am Chris, I am a member and a Project Worker with People First Dorset. I want to tell you about a project I have recently worked on.


We worked with the University of Southampton on a research project called ‘Exploring belonging through art’. The project was about helping us find ways we can meaningfully include people with more profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) in our activities, by using art and music. It was funded by the Public Engagement with Research unit at the university.


People First Dorset want people with more profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) to join in with their activities and to feel like they belong to People First Dorset, just like our other members do.


People with PMLD don’t often come along to our meetings and events. We think this is because we need more help to understand how we can meaningfully include them in what we do.


People with PMLD often communicate in different ways to some of our other members. For example, sometimes they don’t communicate by speaking, they may use sign language or devices to help them say what they would like to.


So the University of Southampton helped us look at ways that we could use art or music, to do activities which everyone could participant in, so everyone was included, and new friendships could be made.


Three workshops were run in a local Day centre. The workshops bought together people from two local day centres and some People First Dorset members.


Everyone in the workshops had different support needs and communicated differently.


The workshops were really fun. In the first one we used large art materials such big rolls of paper, shiny, sliver blankets and plastic sheets, people could explore them how they wanted. Everyone created lots of different activities, like scrunching up the paper and playing games with the large blankets.


We also did a music session, using a keyboard, microphone and a computer program to put together sounds. I loved the session where we could use the microphone to make different sounds, everyone could get involved in this.


It was brilliant meeting up with others from the day centres and getting to know them. It was also great talking with the support staff.


I think we managed to find some new ways of better including people with PMLD but we are keen to learn more, we would also love to do more in community venues. We will carry on with this work and exploring ways to be more inclusive and use art and music to do this.



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