Irish breakthrough brings hope to kids with disabilities
Once upon a time... in Ireland, the brand of disability that the general population had come to know was firmly rooted in shame, pity, charity, or at best the dramatisation of heroic efforts to simply function and be “normal.” Now, not only can any child, young adult or adult with any disability, ‘go to college,’ make new friends, advance many skills but can also enjoy creating and playing high quality music.
After six years of extensive research, trialling and refining at Foyle Arts on the Derry Campus of Ulster University, Dr Denise White, a multi-award winning, experienced educator who has gained global recognition for her work with vulnerable children and adults, and Shaun Healy, the world’s first person with severe intellectual disabilities to conduct an orchestra, invented ‘Conductology,’ a new gesture language for music.
The scientifically-proven methodology significantly advances creative thinking and a plethora of skills. It has been proven to enhance confidence, self-worth and emotional well-being and can be utilised within any age-group, background, ability or culture. Conductology can be used within any music and sound environment introducing every child and adult to inclusive and accessible music-making including via the means of adaptive music technology and a range of sound objects.
Dr Denise and Shaun have a vision of creating a world where EVERY child can play.
Although it seems that nothing can hold Shaun back now, it wasn’t always like that. “I was trapped in a dark tunnel with no way out,” is how Shaun described his life in the time B.C. (Before Conductology.) He had attended a Special Needs school. He has Global Development Delay, cannot read or write, has a tremor in his hands and suffered extensively from what he called “his anxiety monster”. He had little confidence or feeling of self-worth. He had limited communication skills, lacked focus, discipline and concentration.
Now in 2020 AD (After Dr Denise), Shaun is playing a different tune. No anxiety, his hands do not shake when he conducts using the Conductology system and he has defeated the ‘anxiety monster.’ He is a Master Conductologist, training and mentoring in the ground-breaking methodology. He conducts orchestras, choirs and ensembles and has delivered speeches and presentations to policymakers, influencers etc. as well as significantly advancing many skills. Shaun’s first ensemble included performers with Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Asperger's syndrome and global developmental delay and like him, each has an exciting story to tell.
Glowing testimonies from academics, music professionals and celebrities have already permeated TV and Press.
Deborah Kelleher, C.E.O. Royal Irish Academy of Music, “… a real game-changer,”
Professor Frank Lyons MBE, Ulster University, “When people hear the music for themselves, their perceptions of those with disabilities is brought to a whole new level.”
Talent knows no boundaries. Coming soon is… the Irish Conductology Inclusive Orchestra. Shaun’s new orchestra, ICIO, intend to establish Conductology music ensembles for children, young people and adults with and without disabilities across the island of Ireland. An opportunity that has been denied to 1 in 7 of the population in the Republic of Ireland for generations, to participate in a local orchestra or ensembles either remotely/online, or via mainstream schools and colleges. In the meantime, academic courses are available here.