In search of a sensory route to Homer

1st November 1996 at 00:00
ODYSSEY NOW By Nicola Grove and Keith Park Jessica Kingsley Publishers Pounds 16.95.

This innovative book aims to make literature, in this case Homer's Odyssey, more accessible to people with severe, profound or multiple learning difficulties. The story of Odysseus has been interpreted in many ways throughout history: Odyssey Now is a highly imaginative dramatisation which uses a variety of interactive games designed to develop communication skills and structured in a way which encourages a broad range of sensory stimulation.

The story is divided into sections: Setting off, Winding down, Cyclops, Circe, Hades, Sirens, Calypso, Nausica and Ithaca. Each one contains a simple narrative followed by suggestions for kinaesthetic experiences, music, imagery and other sensory based activities using smells and tactile materials.

The suggested resources are extensive including an appendix of poetry providing the hard-pressed professional with a wealth of material to use. Each ofthe 34 activities can be developed and interpreted for the needs of a particular group and adapted for all ages.

Chapter 3 analyses the process of communication development and identifies a continuum from "behaviour which is pre-intentional and non-symbolic to behaviour which is deliberate, active and expressed through conventional symbolic forms such as words, signs or graphic symbols". The communication framework relates directly to the purpose of the activities outlined. It is made even more useful by the chapter on record keeping which outlines ways in which individual goals can be set and monitored throughout the series of activities. A photocopiable form for this process is included in the appendix which provides a matrix of what meanings are communicated set alongside how the meaning is communicated. This is invaluable for teachers and other professionals working with people with communication difficulties.

Odyssey Now should encourage teachers to interpret other works of literature in a similar way providing a range of narrative experiences for children and adults with severe, profound or multiple learning disabilities. It will stimulate all those working with people who have communication difficulties particularly if they would like to engage in a multisensory approach.

Jane Tarr is senior lecturer in education at the University of the West of England, Bristol

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