Project goes online to help developmentally disabled
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, The Rhythmic Arts Project nonprofit was more prepared to go remote with its programming than many organizations were.
TRAP founder Eddie Tuduri told the News-Press he put all of his curriculum for instructing developmentally disabled individuals online five years ago.
With programs in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Bulgaria, Spain, Turkey, Thailand and most recently Nairobi, Kenya, TRAP’s curriculum has an international reach. Because he couldn’t realistically fly to every foreign and domestic locality that wanted to set up a TRAP program, Mr. Tuduri decided it would be easier to spread its reach by making it available on the internet.
“When COVID happened, I was already set up and had been doing virtual training in many countries and across the states,” he said.
Nevertheless, prior to the pandemic Mr. Tuduri was still traveling to many places with PathPoint’s community integration manager Gil Addison to do one-on-one instruction with students. TRAP’s instruction involves teaching individuals with developmental disabilities reading, writing, arithmetic, social skills, and creative thinking by utilizing drums as a tactile teaching tool.
For example, when teaching a child number-basics like how to count to four, Mr. Tuduri or one of the other TRAP instructors would play four quarter notes on the drum while saying, “One, two, three, four.”
Or if three drums are laid in front of a student with numbers on the skins ascending in quantity from left to right, an instructor may ask questions such as which number is the greatest, in which case the students would tap the left drum.
In more complicated lessons, TRAP students will have to do what the nonprofit founder referred to as “crossing the midline.” An example of this would be if a row of drums before a student had colors on the skins, with red on the far-right drum and black on the far-left drum, and the instructor told the student to hit black with his or her right hand.
According to Mr. Tuduri, this method allows people with disabilities to learn through ways that are not only auditory and visual, but tactile as well. He added that when instructing people with disabilities, person-to-person connection is especially important, and something he admitted has been lost with moving to an online format.
“These folks especially need that personal touch,” he said.
With that said, TRAP has managed to continue and expand its program by Mr. Tuduri instructing new teachers on how to teach the program’s curriculum. This involves Mr. Tuduri and Mr. Addison sitting in on Zoom sessions while a new teacher instructs TRAP students in different locations and giving feedback, or receiving recordings of remote lessons and then critiquing them.
Most recently, the nonprofit has been instructing new teachers in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, who are teaching students from the city’s poorest slums. Having gained a foothold there, Mr. Tuduri hopes to expand TRAP’S curriculum to the rest of the continent.
“Nairobi is the latest far-away place and I’m loving it, and this will be an open door in the rest of Africa, we hope,” he said.
Mr. Tuduri remarked that while many of the remote learning systems set up in unified school districts are “failing,” that isn’t the case for that which TRAP has set up.
“We are not failing because we took the time to figure this out and it didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been doing this for months and months and months,” he said.
While drums are merely a tool for TRAP to teach scholastic subjects, Mr. Tuduri said the program’s students have actually exhibited real musical aptitude.
“This isn’t a music program, but man, they can play. They do everything with rhythm.”