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Flynn & Helena’s Story

Read how our Tuneful Chatter sessions brought Flynn out of his shell

An adult and a young child play with small lamps under a translucent blue piece of fabric during a Tuneful Chatter session at The Point in Doncaster

Flynn’s and Helena’s Story  

Helena first brought Flynn, 3, to Tuneful Chatter in January 2022. She told us that Flynn joined in sessions really well initially, but then regressed developmentally. Whilst his social skills appeared to be typical for his age, his language was delayed. Helena told us that when Flynn was around two years old, and she noticed a change in his communication ability, he became much more shy and found interaction with others his own age really challenging. It was at this point that Helena noticed difficulties around Flynn’s communication, and began to do all she could to support Flynn to overcome these challenges. 

He has difficulties with communication and some sensory need, so since then he has been referred for a GDA (General Development Assessment)… so we are exploring whether Flynn is perhaps autistic or not.

Coming out of his Shell 

Initially, when they first came to Tuneful Chatter, Flynn found sessions daunting, and socialising with other children was difficult, but as the weeks went on Tuneful Chatter became something he looked forward to, and he began to tackle social situations.  

It’s about exposing him to social situations that he finds hard, because that’s real life. And this is not daunting… it’s overcoming that barrier for Flynn. For his personal development, it’s been brilliant for that.

Helena said that the sessions provided enough gentle challenge for him to build resilience and grow in confidence, but there was no pressure, and that he could take some time out, put his ear defenders on when he became overwhelmed, and then join in at his own pace. She told us that for Flynn this element of gentle challenge has been essential in helping him to catch up and become ready for school in the future.  

Making Connections 

darts’ experienced artists design and deliver activity that children can take part in both independently or with their grown-ups, as well as with other children, meaning that they have those who struggle with interaction are able to build up connections gradually, through play and exploration in an environment that suits them. With Flynn finding socialising and communicating with his peers more difficult than other 3-year-olds would, Helena told us that this structure was really important in developing Flynn’s willingness and ability to interact with others.  

He thrives on that, and he’s made really positive connections with Charlie and with Beth [artists] and that’s not typical for Flynn.

Learning and Language  

The programme is designed and delivered collaboratively by darts’ professional dance artists, theatre practitioners and musicians. For Flynn, one of the most enjoyable and beneficial aspects of the sessions is the incorporation of music, rhyme and song – “he loves it.” 

“It is fantastic for spontaneous language… Charlie [artist] is very good at modelling that.” 

Helena told us that Tuneful Chatter is one of the only groups that Flynn is talking at: she noticed that he had a very small word bank, and became worried when regressed to the point where he was no longer talking. His language began to develop again, but a lot later than it usually would, and Flynn became very shy. Yet, coming to groups such as Tuneful Chatter, alongside the Helena’s dedication to supporting Flynn to develop, has enabled him to improve his language and vocabulary again.  

Because there is no sort of pressure on the children, and it’s being modelled really clearly and really well, I think that’s helped him develop that [language and communication].

Tailor-made Delivery 

Tuneful Chatter, like all of darts’ programmes is always participant-led. This means that the artist’s delivery of sessions is guided by the participant, providing a space and safe environment for participants to take part in the session in the way that best suits their needs. Helena recognised that, with Freddie facing additional difficulties in interaction, this open, accessible style of delivery enabled him to grow and thrive, taking Tuneful Chatter sessions at his own pace and exploring the activities that he could best connect with. 

For us, the biggest thing that has helped with that, for Flynn, is the fact that staff have been really understanding that he is developing a little differently to others, and they’re giving him that space… It has just been really welcoming and lovely.

The sessions often use creative play to stimulate turn-taking, acting with kindness, communication and imagination. Helena told us that as Flynn’s development is at a different stage to other children of his own age, this is something that he often tends to struggle with, creating a marked difference between him and his peers. She said that despite this, one of his strengths is being able to model others, following in the gentle example set by artists and exploring his imagination from there. 

Flynn’s imagination will not be the same as other children… but seeing that movement and imagination being modelled and suggested to him has really helped him learn.

Flynn isn’t developing typically, but it definitely has contributed to his development. We come in every week, it’s brilliant that it’s accessible for everybody – Flynn still has to wear nappies when we’re out and about, but the fact that you’ve got the accessible toilet upstairs [Changing Places] is fantastic.

He’s coming away with a lot of language that he’s picking up here. And that is how Flynn will learn, and that’s brilliant because I know that he’s gaining new language and that is the impact for me, for Flynn.

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