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Fall Program Underway

Our fall Creative Arts Program for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities is well underway, with 11 participants, as many wonderful volunteers and 5 music therapy students!  A lively group.  The story follows the adventures of a Donkey Prince and a Brave Young Girl on their quest to retrieve a magic apple belonging to the prince’s mother, The Queen.  They need to go through fire and water together, outsmart the Wild Men and get the apple back to the Queen to save her from death.    Here are water-colour paintings of the Flowing River.painting "the flowing river"

Last week the participants had to build a ring of fire to protect them from the Wild Man, and later they painted  Fire.

Creating Fire Fire painting:DP

Will they make it back in time?!



Spring Into Summer

Newsletter May:14pdf


Winter 2014

We are now several weeks into the new story – “The Raven Princess” –  based on a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, as are many of our other stories. When the princess was just a young child, her mother the Queen was trying to get her to have an afternoon nap; the child refused and threw a tantrum.  The mother, in frustration, as she looked out the window and saw a flock of ravens fly by, cried: “Oh, I wish you would just turn into  raven and fly out the window!”  And that is exactly what happened.  (Some of the participants really enjoy the opportunity to shout No! and stomp their feet as the little princess throws her tantrum!)   The story follows the adventures of a traveler who is determined to help free the Princess from her enchantment.    All the participants made Raven head-masks and with their black capes flew around the room with their “Caw, caws”. We have even begun a Raven dance.  Lots of songs accompany the story.

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So far, the traveler has failed the test that the Princess set for him, but he will prevail!  Here are some paintings of the forest where the Traveler meets the Old Woman:

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Until next time….


Fall 2013

In our Fall 2013 Creative Arts Program for Youth the participants got to dramatize two stories – the first was planned and run by me, Kathleen Purdy, and Music Therapist Heather Price. We chose the story of Iron John. Based on a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, the story relates the adventures of a young prince who frees a Wild Man (Iron John) from a cage and then goes with him into the wilderness where he is given tasks. Unable to complete the tasks, the prince is sent out into the world to learn what poverty is. So begins his archetypal journey of self-discovery on the road to becoming an adult. The Hero’s Journey.

Iron John’s crown and the three golden apples.

one of the three horses the prince rode

One of the three horses the prince rode

The second story, The Crystal Ball, was organized by the three music therapy students who completed a practicum with the Alexander Society. Again, this is the story of a young man who sets himself the task of freeing a princess from enchantment and at the same time freeing his two brothers who were all put under a spell by their wicked mother. Another version of the Hero’s Journey.

photo 5 photo 4 copy                                                                            The Eagle – one of the brothers the hero must free.

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The vision of the Alexander Society is beautiful communities in which the diversity of individuals and the land are fostered and celebrated.  To this end, the Social and Agricultural Renewal Committee was set up to begin the process.     Throughout the fall,  other initiatives have been simmering, notably the Housing First Committee of Kings County which has finished its present mandate to create a report on the state of affordable housing in Kings County,  bringing together like-minded organizations.   It is now time to meet with provincial representatives of Housing Nova Scotia to help determine the next step.


2013 – The First Half

Here it is – half way through the summer, and I am just now finding the time to consolidate my thoughts on the very full but rewarding winter and spring just passed.    Working in my garden has given me time to ponder all that has transpired and a moment or two to think about the future.  So, here is is brief view of the past 6 months of the Alexander Society’s activities.

Beginning in the new year we ran two concurrent programs – one, Creative Arts for Youth, embraced older teens and young adults.  Using the story of the voyages of Odysseus on his return from the Trojan wars, we engaged the participants in many exciting adventures.  At the end of the ten weeks, parents and friends were invited to share Odysseus’ final adventure as he regained his homeland.  As with most of our programs we were very fortunate to attract some very dedicated volunteers to provide one-on-one support for the individual participants.  This and the following program was facilitated by me, Kathleen Purdy and Music Therapist Heather Price.   Two music therapy students from Acadia helped us out and used these programs as part of their practicum.
Over the same time period, we facilitated an in-school program sponsored by the N.S. Department of Education and our local school board. This eight week “Creative Arts in the Schools” program was documented on video by a local high school student so that other schools could benefit from this approach to teaching.  As well as working with the children we spent time with teachers and educational assistants to help them understand the approach and strategies that they can put into practice with individual students or groups.
I was invited to give several workshops.  One was for Early Childhood Educators, coordinated by the Nova Scotia Community College.   Another was a full-day in-service for teachers and assistants at a French school in Cape Breton.   I was one of the many chosen to make a presentation at the 2nd Annual Emergent Learning conference in Halifax. (We were in good company as the Headline speaker was Deepak Chopra.) My topic was “Learning through the Arts”. Participants were engaged in a lively and interactive presentation about incorporating the arts into school programs in an inclusive setting.
A nine-week (once a week) Educational Support program was carried out at the South Shore Waldorf school.  In this program individual children are guided through exercises that help build the capacities they need to further their academic work.

We welcomed two new Board members at our Spring AGM :   Sarah MacDonald Hiltz and Kathy Ferrier, who join present Board members Susan Haley, Michelle Morgan-Coole and Tracey Tomlik-Porter.
As in the past several years, we facilitated four Jam Dances, inclusive movement and music activities for the whole community. These are organized by the Flower Cart, and facilitated by me and Kimberly Smith.  We never know who is going to show up or how it is going to turn out, but it is always a great social event and lots of fun for people of all abilities.
Plans are taking shape for the fall and another chapter of the Workbook should appear by the end of summer.

Wishing you all a fruitful summer…  Kathleen Purdy, Executive Director, Alexander Society for Special Needs.


Jam Dance!

Jam Dance Poster for May 23, 3013

A Look Back at 2012!


To read about the exciting adventures of the Alexander Society over the past year, click on the link below photo:










2012 in review


Jam Dance is a program that is designed to bridge the gaps that separate people.   It is an inclusive form of guided creative physical and musical play.   It embraces the distinct  gifts of each person and encourages sharing and empathy.    The whole experience is alive with possibilities and opportunities to discover our selves, each other,  and to make connections.  This is all done by  improvising music and creative movement together with the support of some of the most open and creative  musicians in our community.    Jam Dance is all about listening, feeling, doing, and sharing an inclusive culture that is full of heart and joy.      Here is a poster for the next one.   You’re invited to come and be part of the fun.





















Flying with the sparrow:
How legends empower people with disabilities

In this presentation Nicola will share her experiences in the UK, Japan and South Africa.  She will:
–  Talk about storytelling in the lives of people with disabilities
–   Show examples of the work of Openstorytellers, the world’s first company of storytellers with intellectual disabilities.
–  Learn from you about disability and story in First Nations and other cultures.
–  Discuss with you stories and legends of First Nations that are important for  people with disabilities.
–  Share some approaches to storytelling with children and adults who do not talk or who have speech impairments.

The presentation will be a combination of film, talk, and group discussions and activities.

Brief biography: 
Nicola was first an English teacher, then a speech and language therapist, specialising in work with people who have intellectual disabilities. She obtained a PhD in 1997, on the topic of sign language use by hearing children with intellectual disabilities. This led to lecturing posts at the Institute of Education at London University, and at City University Department of Language and Communication Science, where she is an honorary research fellow. She has just retired as Director of the first arts company of intellectually disabled storytellers, Openstorytellers (www.openstorytellers.org.uk) This pioneering venture is run with the help of three people with intellectual disabilities, offering training, performances and research into narrative and story. She is a freelance consultant and researcher. Currently she is conducting the research side of a three year project to develop oral storytelling skills with young people who have complex communication needs.


For the last three Wednesdays, Music Therapist Heather Price and I (Kathleen) have brought  Interactive Storytelling and Music Therapy to youth at a local Residential Home.   All the participants are in wheelchairs, are non-verbal and some are blind.   So music was the main ingredient.  We based the program on the story of The King, The Mice and the Cheese.  This happens to be the first story published in my on-line workbook.  However, we did adapt it considerably to suit the needs of the participants by  adding new songs, adapting others, leaving out the art activities, bringing in lots of stuffed animals and so on.   All got to participate by playing (often with hand-over -hand support)  rhythm instruments for each of the characters in the story.   We were richly rewarded with broad smiles and signs of excited anticipation for what was coming next.    Plans are in the works for providing a ten week program in the fall.