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Champions for Children: Leo and English Touring Opera

11 Jun 2021

News Story

This week, we're taking part in the Champions for Children campaign with the Childhood Trust, during which every donation made via the Big Give's website will be doubled to help support our Learning & Participation programme in bringing music to children across London.

Part of the funding will go towards creating fantastic new work especially for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN). During the first lockdown in 2020, we created a series of workshops for children with special educational needs led by our Associate Artist, Bradley Travis, and his trusty parrot Squawky. The workshops worked on singing, rhythm, counting and much more, and were a great success, giving parents and children a focus and a joyous outlet while everyone was at home.

One young man who discovered ETO’s workshops was Leo. Leo has followed Bradley and Squawky throughout the past year, and when we committed to making a new, bigger series of workshops (Squawky’s Musical Makaton), he was standing at the front of the virtual queue. His mother, Wendy tells us about Leo and the profound impact our work has had on him:

“Leo is 12 and has severe learning disabilities and is autistic. He loves music and drumming! He enjoys musical theatre immensely and is often seen taking in a show in London’s West End. He is home-educated, and had all his learning sessions and group activities stopped with the first lockdown along with theatre and music therapy. He was on his own and isolating with just me, so he wasn’t seeing anyone and was missing his musical release. Before everyone discovered Zoom calls and classes there wasn’t a lot to do. Thankfully, the ETO link was shared with us for their first lot of SEND music workshops and we took a look.

Leo was amazed to see that Bradley had a parrot puppet just like his Polly Parrot (a total coincidence)! So he and Polly watched in amazement and enjoyed singing along to the songs and learning the rhythm. He enjoyed it so much he watched the sessions over and over again. The Makaton signs and simple language made it easy for him to follow, and the workshops were so much fun with Bradley and his animal friends that they made Leo happy and helped pass those early days of sudden isolation. Leo has become so confident since doing the workshops, and his pitch, rhythm and singing have all improved dramatically.

Leo has a chromosome disorder and Agenesis of the corpus callosum which is why he has learning disabilities. The Agenesis of the corpus callosum means that the gap between the two sides of his brain didn’t form so the neural pathways are not normal. When you take a moment to think what that means it makes it all the more amazing to see what music (including ETO’s online workshops) does for him. We can’t thank ETO enough for the work they have done and continue to do for Leo and other SEN children.”

To support our work with children like Leo, please donate £5 to our Champions for Children campaign and it will be matched by the Childhood Trust. Your generosity will be very much appreciated and will help us to bring transformative benefits for children's confidence, wellbeing & education.