Jenny Downs
Nada Murphy
Amy Epstein

Jenny Downs, Head, Child Disability Team, Telethon Kids Institute:
We have the very enjoyable task of evaluating the Experience Collider program. Nada Murphy and Amy Epstein work with me in the Child Disability team at Telethon Kids Institute on projects about physical and mental health in child disability. An area of work that is especially close to our hearts is quality of life – our vision of success is that both children and their families affected by disability will live with a strong quality of life.

Participation in the community is a powerful promoter of good health and well-being contributing to quality of life. We envisage that the Experience Collider program will provide the teenagers with opportunities for fun, creative freedom, learning, experiencing success, and belonging to a team. This is what we are wanting to investigate.

We will be interviewing members of the artistic team to find out about their strategies and experiences in designing and delivering the program; asking parents to tell us about their teenager’s quality of life in short surveys; observing the teenagers whilst they are learning and practicing their circus skills; and, using a very simple but fun pictorial flip-sheet, asking the teenagers whether they are enjoying the circus program and their participation in the activities. 

We look forward to sharing some of our observations in this journal.


Nada Murphy, Psychologist/Researcher: Here are some “vingettes” - observations from the early exploratory phase:

1st September, 2018
A is working on a small rolling platform that accommodates him with B. He is comfortable with the physical contact with B and holds on of his own accord.  He clearly enjoys this activity and initiates a number of actions, pushing himself around. He slips off the apparatus at one point and promptly gets himself back on. He is smiling and making soft sounds and seems relaxed. He puts his hands to his mouth once.

8th September 2018
Shadow play
H engages with B in shadow play. He is attentive to the shadow and makes shapes by raising his hands. B makes her shadow push his shadow. He responds as if this hurt by saying “ Ouch” and makes growling sounds. H uses his arms in the air to  make his shadow hit the other shadow back. This is  a lovely piece of imaginative work.

25th September 2018
Vocalising and Shadow projection
E shows interest in the camera and projection and enjoyment in making sounds amplified by the mic. He has momentary shifts which may be due to poor control over his head movement. He is happy to interact with the Circus teens and with Sam.

25th September 2018
Building trust and overcoming a difficulty
A appears to be willing to do movement work with Sam until he is rolled over. He appears to experience some discomfort and ignores prompts to join in, curling up on the floor. He looks tired (perhaps after a very active session in the hall). Initially he does not seem to want to engage in the silks activity but then grabs the silk and begins to experiment with Sam, before curling up on the floor again. His father helps him to his feet. He falls back into a seated position and moves toward the teens, accepting the gesture from the Circus teen who placed the silk over his face. He seems to enjoy the activity and watches the teens working above. He also accepts Nel’s offer of a silk which he pulls over himself. He makes soft sounds vocalising pleasure suggesting he is relaxed. He joins in with the mic activity feeling the sounds vibrations on his face and mouth before accepting more activity with the silks. 

27th September 2018
Relationships and emotional support
E was unsettled by something and began to cry and made moves to leave. The trigger was not clear (possibly imaginary fire?) Nel and Sam comforted her and she returned with Nel to sit and watch the group, momentarily joining the activity before withdrawing again, choosing to move a chair to the rear of the room. Sam responded by calling this a picnic break improvising with chairs and rugs on the floor in the rear area of the hall. This meeting time was used to talk about being a team and included play with bean bag juggling balls. E was very pleased with this development, participated well and was happy again. She ate her lunch whilst the others played.