Having partnered SPD last year to modify toys for children from SPD’s Building Bridges EIPIC Centres, the dedicated staff and engineers from DSO National Laboratories took it up a notch this year to adapt musical instruments for the children, and allowing those with higher needs to participate in a musical performance at the year-end graduation ceremony.
The idea of modifying musical instruments was shared with DSO engineers from the “Mod Squad” in discussions that took place in January this year as it was difficult for them to find off-the-shelves musical instruments that are suitable for children with special needs.
Drawing from their experience from the previous Hack-a-Toy initiative, the engineers were better acquainted with the children’s physical constraints, and have implemented more advanced assistive devices to help improve their motor coordination.
A core team of 10 engineers, led by the Mod Squad team leader, Mr Yee Qing Xiang, combined their expertise in areas such as mechanical design, electronic circuit boarding, programming and 3D printing to turn normal xylophones, cymbals, tone blocks, bells, washboards and tambourines into those that the children can actually play with minimal assistance.
“We recognised that some of the children with special needs could not enjoy the pleasures of creating simple music because of the lack of fine motor skills. The idea came after some discussions with SPD, and we got to work. Most of the engineers work through lunch, after work hours and the weekends, but we are happy that we finally get to present them to the children today,” said Mr Yee at the handover ceremony at SPD@Jurong on 29 September.
He also cited their desire to try something different as the reason why they wanted to try modifying musical instruments. Not wanting to repeat what they had been doing, the team welcomed the challenge. The motivation to do something totally new and different was one of the reasons that spurred the team on.
“We are happy that DSO shares our belief that children with special needs are capable of producing and learning different skills and abilities, that play is an important part of a child’s learning, and nobody should be left out,” said Ms Becky Hoo, Director of Children’s Services, SPD.
Some of the children and their caregivers were given an opportunity to try out the modified instruments. When the instruments were presented to the children in the classrooms after the ceremony, they were all eager to try them out and could not contain their excitement.
“I believe it will help her a lot in her learning. She is a music lover and now she even plays with a small drum kit at home! These modified instruments will definitely help her and other children,”
said Mr Jain Rathan, parent of 3-year-old MacKenzia Gabriella, who will be performing at the year-end event.
A total of 24 modified musical instruments were presented to SPD which have been distributed to the four Building Bridges EIPIC Centres at SPD Ability Centre, SPD@Bedok, SPD@Jurong and SPD@Tampines where the teachers are busy preparing the children for the first combined performance for the centres.
We look forward to the children taking the stage and creating music together at Methodist Girls’ School on 23 November. It will be music to the ears.