Drama to promote personal and social well-being in six and seven year old children with communication difficulties: The Speech Bubbles Project

Barnes, J. (2013) Drama to promote personal and social well-being in six and seven year old children with communication difficulties: The Speech Bubbles Project. Perspectives in Public Health. ISSN 1757-9139.

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Aims: This paper focuses on an innovative intersection between education, health and arts. Taking a broad definition of health it examines some social and psychological well-being impacts of extended collaborations between a theatre company and children with communication difficulties. It seeks to test aspects of Fredrickson’s1 broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions in a primary school curriculum context.

Methods: The researcher participated in a project called Speech Bubbles. The programme was devised by theatre practitioners and aimed at six- and seven-year-olds with difficulties in speech, language and communication. Sessions were observed, videoed and analysed for levels of child well-being using an established scale. In addition, responses regarding perceived improvements in speech, language and communication were gathered from school records and teachers, teaching assistants, practitioners and parents. Data were captured using still images and videos, children’s recorded commentaries, conversations, written feedback and observation. Using grounded research methods, themes and categories arose directly from the collected data.

Results: Fluency, vocabulary, inventiveness and concentration were enhanced in the large majority of referred children. The research also found significant positive developments in motivation and confidence. Teachers and their assistants credited the drama intervention with notable improvements in attitude, behaviour and relationships over the year. Aspects of many children’s psychological well-being also showed marked signs of progress when measured against original reasons for referral and normal expectations over a year. An unexpected outcome was evidence of heightened well-being of the teaching assistants involved.

Conclusions: Findings compared well with expectations based upon Fredrickson’s theory and also the theatre company’s view that theatre-making promotes emotional awareness and empathy. Improvements in both children’s well-being and communication were at least in part related to the sustained and playful emphases on the processes and practice of drama, clear values and an inclusive environment.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC1390 Education of special classes of persons > LC3950 Exceptional children and youth. Special education
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Health and Social Care > Sidney de Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health
Depositing User: Jonathan Barnes
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2013 13:28
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2014 14:11
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/12291

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00