Transforming Communities

Finn – increasing the engagement of a pupil with Autism through a creative music and performance project


Live Music Now’s “Musicians in Residence” programme took place in 12 special schools across England. During the course of a year, each school hosted an LMN Musician in Residence who made weekly visits to work with small groups of pupils. There were also termly concerts by various LMN ensembles and a creative music and performance project in the final term.  This case study describes how one pupil’s engagement improved significantly during a 6 week creative music project with two LMN jazz musicians.

Starting Point:

Finn has a recognised diagnosis of PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) as well as a diagnosis of Autism.  In school Finn finds it very difficult to engage, particularly with unfamiliar adults.  He is obsessed with pop music. Although this obsession can be useful, it’s can be detrimental as he is reluctant to engage in music activities that do not involve chart pop music.  In a classroom setting Finn often works 1:1 with an adult, frequently refusing to participate and demonstrating very aggressive and sometimes violent behaviour (verbal and physical).  He has extremely high levels of anxiety within all aspects of his life and this affects his learning; he finds it very difficult to acquire new skills and knowledge.

Weekly Sessions with the Live Music Now Musicians:

Initially Finn took a lot of persuading to even enter the room.  Once there he often requested to leave early. Despite experienced staff dealing with his behaviour, he did the leave the first couple of sessions prematurely.  As the sessions progressed, Finn began to grow in confidence about what was being asked of him and transferred his attention to the task at hand: he began communicating and negotiating with the Live Music Now musicians who were leading the session.  At the last practice session he did not need the additional school staff to support him at all (although they were present in the room).  As a result of his increased engagement, he developed his musical skills: he played a wider range of instruments, contributed ideas to the group piece and followed the structure of the piece over a prolonged period of time.

Final Performance:

During the final performance, Finn verbally introduced and concluded the piece independently – including thanking fellow performers and Live Music Now musicians.  He participated in the piece, working alongside his peers to follow the structure of the piece and more importantly, turn taking, which he had previously found very difficult.