Home Mental Health & Well-Being New Academic Study Says Theatre Company Gives Its Learning-disabled Performers Skills for Life

New Academic Study Says Theatre Company Gives Its Learning-disabled Performers Skills for Life

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A new study by the University of Winchester has shown how a theatre company has helped its learning-disabled performers off stage as well as on.

Blue Apple commissioned a study by Dr Rachel Harrison, a senior lecturer in health and social care, to look at the impact of its work with people with learning disabilities.

The organisation supports learning disabled performers to develop and present high-quality productions and participatory workshops to the widest possible audiences around Hampshire and the south, as well as nationally and internationally.

Blue Apple is the “Theatre Company in Residence” at the University of Winchester. This provides an opportunity for Blue Apple participants and students to work together on and off stage.

Dr Harrison interviewed a range of stakeholders, including participants, trustees, parents and members of staff.

Her key finding was that taking part in Blue Apple’s sessions and performances had many ongoing benefits for the participants by improving their emotional well-being and self-confidence.

“Blue Apple hadn’t realised that what participants valued above everything else were the relationships that they formed when they came to the group,” said Dr Harrison. “Being accepted for who you are and being part of a group is so important.”

Coming to Blue Apple gave participants a unique place where their views and opinions were always listened to and considered, she said.

Interviews also revealed that the skills participants learned for shows also helped them in ordinary life, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

“People told me about being able to speak more clearly because they had learned to project their voice,” said Dr Harrison. “This has given people confidence. One person said: ‘I can go shopping now because people can understand what I say.’”

Others told Dr Harrison their Maths skills had improved thanks to being involved in musical numbers where they had to count the beats to keep in time.

Due to Dr Harrison’s research, Blue Apple is now developing an easy-to-use app to gauge the well-being of their participants using measures suggested by them.

Blue Apple are keen to work with Dr Harrison to extend this research across their new groups across Hampshire. Blue Apple are currently using this research in funding bids to extend their services even further. Blue Apple is now using the research insights to evidence the impact of their services in funding bids to support continued provision of their essential work.

Blue Apple’s artistic director, Richard Conlon, said: “Although we see for ourselves the development and growth of well-being and confidence in specific individuals, it is reassuring to have that view validated externally. We are also very pleased that we can use these insights to track change in how participants feel about their experiences at Blue Apple so that we can respond, change, and grow to meet their needs.”

Read the full report here.

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