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Infant Imaginings 2011

Helium’s early years project, Infant Imaginings, is taking place this year in association with the HSE Early Intervention Teams in Sligo and Leitrim. Helene Hugel, puppeteer, and musician Sean Callagy have been working once a month with the Early Intervention staff and onsite health practitioners in Sligo to complement their service provision for the Parent and Toddler Group. They will bring the project to Leitrim for four months from September.

The Infant Imaginings project aims to promote relaxation, communication and learning between babies, toddlers and their parents through music, performance, puppetry and the visual arts. The emphasis in the current phase is on providing creative play experiences for toddlers with developmental delays or toddlers at risk of developmental delay and on building on-going relationships between the artists, the families, and staff involved.

Helene and Sean are playing with fabric, feathers, paper, and other everyday materials to explore how music and rhyme can be brought to life through creative play. A key focus of Infant Imaginings is to develop arts experiences which parents can reproduce in the home environment and the artists leave behind a kit of props, puppets and Sean’s acoustic CD of nursery rhymes for this purpose.

“We would have toddlers here of different abilities, skills and needs and both Helene and Sean are very intuitive and can tap into what the children’s needs are… They have different ways, different ideas and different creative skills that we might not necessarily have as therapists and clinicians and the balance is very very good. It just gives a more holistic approach to these children.” – Early Intervention Team Manager HSE West

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Photographs by Niamh O’Connor

Inspired by an Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapist who spoke of the importance of visuals in the development of communication, Helene and Sean are currently developing a multi-sensory performance piece which brings nursery rhymes to life. This performance is being developed into a work-in-progress this August at The Model, Sligo. Parents from the Infant Imaginings project will be invited to attend.

“Very impressed with the way music has been brought to life through play. The children loved every minute of it and were encouraged to explore the different instruments” – Parent

“I found the Helium session excellent – it was presented in such a manner that my daughter could interact when she felt ready to. It was non-threatening. My daughter loves music – and it is such a good medium for communication.” – Parent

The importance of Infant Imaginings as a primary care programme has been recognised in the 2011 Biomnis Healthcare Innovation Awards, where the project was a finalist in the Health and Social Care Support Initiative category. Next year, Helium plans to develop the project in other areas of the country.

Meet the HSE Early Intervention staff working with Helium on Infant Imaginings

Infant Imaginings is produced by Helium in partnership with the HSE Early Intervention Teams in Sligo and Leitrim and was made possible with help from the Community Foundation for Ireland, the National Lottery through the HSE, the Arts Council and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

The HSE Early Intervention Teams in Sligo and Leitrim are dedicated mutidisciplinary teams, within the wider community services. The Teams provide multidisciplinary services to children with developmental delays or children who are at risk of developmental delay, in the 0-6 year age group. The Teams work with parents/guardians on their journey through assessment, diagnosis and intervention, to enable each child to reach their potential.

The Parent and Toddler Group was set up by the HSE Counsellor for Special Needs Service and parents of children with special needs in 2005. The group is a support group for families with babies and toddlers, who are attending HSE Early Intervention Teams/Services. The aim of the group is to promote the social experiences of young people with specail needs and to provide support and training to parents.

To find out more about previous phases of Infant Imaginings visit www.old.helium.ie/imagine.html