Community Fellows Profile: Self-assessment in Creative Therapy Programs by Participants with Intellectual Disability

Photograph: Two people dancing while holding large pieces of white and green fabric

Image: Molly and Tess enjoying a dance session at Bayley House

Does dancing make you happy? Do you like the music, the feel of the rhythm and the sense of your body moving in time? Dancing is good exercise and great for coordination. Not everyone likes to dance, but we all know that moving is good for us. Any exercise we get helps us to maintain our mood, our physical health and our mental health. And we all like to see results from our exercise. We might check the scales, or our waistband, or notice that we can go that little bit further or faster or longer. And we love to share our stories of exercise with our friends!

But for some people with an intellectual disability it can be challenging to communicate whether they are enjoying an exercise class, or if they feel that it is making a difference to their health and wellbeing. Creative arts therapies have a unique capacity to support those with intellectual disability, particularly those who use non-verbal communication methods, to express their feelings, ideas and responses to life experiences due to their emphasis on embodied and visual methods for self-expression.

Tessa Hens, a dance movement therapist at Bayley House, is trialling new ways for people with an intellectual disability to reflect on, assess, and communicate their own sense of enjoyment and progress during creative arts therapies such as Dance Movement Therapy.

Tessa is hoping that the findings from her research project, “Increasing participant voice in assessment methods for NDIS-funded creative arts therapy programs”, will help participants to:

  • identify their own goals linked to specific programs;
  • reflect on their own participation in programs and progress against identified outcomes;
  • reflect on how their progress in certain skills could be transferred to other areas of their lives.

Tessa’s project is funded by the Melbourne Disability Institute through the Melbourne Social Equity Institute’s Community Fellows Program. Community fellows are welcomed into the University of Melbourne as honorary fellows. Each fellow has a research mentor who provides advice on research methods, while the Melbourne Social Equity Institute provides access to ongoing research training and University networks.  Tessa is being mentored by Dr Kim Dunphy from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music.

Tessa’s research project will culminate in July 2019 with the production of a tool that can be applied within creative arts therapy organisations to understand how learners with an intellectual disability are experiencing their programs.

More Information

Charlene Edwards

61 3 9035 4738