Hartpury is beating the drum in support of youngsters with autism


University Centre Hartpury is supporting children with autism spectrum disorder by staging regular drumming sessions as part of a postgraduate research project looking at the effects of music on health and wellbeing.

This year, the Clem Burke Drumming Project at Hartpury aims to assist around 100 children with ASD and other learning difficulties to fulfil their musical potential and contribute to their improved social, sensory and physical development.

Schools and organisations are participating in small group lessons, led by professional drumming tutors, on a weekly basis at Hartpury College and University Centre Hartpury in Gloucestershire.

Fully-trained Hartpury staff and teachers from the schools involved will assess the benefits of drumming for the children participating, such as its impact on individual behaviour and academic and physical performance at school.

The Project is being led by Dr Stephen Draper, the Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning and Scholarship at University Centre Hartpury.

“We have recently established a range of postgraduate research arenas at Hartpury,” said Dr Draper, an expert in sport and exercise physiology.

“We want to ensure that the results of our academic research put something back into the community and demonstrate a real benefit to local people.

“In terms of the Drumming Project, analysis of our findings will inform the continuous tailoring and improvement of the project, ensuring we maximise enjoyment and benefits for each child.

“The project will provide practical insight and evidence to support the earlier functional medical imaging findings of improved brain activity when drumming.

“Most importantly, we believe success is measured by the improvement and enjoyment in the lives of the children.”

Dr Draper (pictured) who spoke about his research at the recent Cheltenham Science Festival, is part of a team at University Centre Hartpury focused on the medical imaging of brain function in ASD children.

It is investigating the changes in brain plasticity that can result from physical activity, specifically drumming.

Initial research with University of Chichester and King’s College London indicated the potential for improved cognition, social interaction, co-ordination, communication skills, behaviour and educational performance.

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