Charlie is four years old and shows amazing concentration when motivated by music. The only vision that Charlie has is the ability to sense a bright spot at the corner of his right eye. Sound, and being able to make sense of it, is a full time job for Charlie – a good reason why Charlie’s listening skills are so sophisticated.
Sound has become not only his connection with the world, but an integral part of him. Charlie is very good at playing the wind chimes with his feet and he uses this technique to communicate.
When our musicians were with him they responded to him playing the chimes by playing with him. When he moved faster, they played faster and higher, and when he slowed, they slowed.
His body became more involved as he got more excited and they followed this with their music. They found out quite quickly that a quick loud low note on the clarinet made him giggle. Every now and then, the music would stop, but the silence that followed still held the musical tension – Charlie listened intently and when the clarinet played the funny low sound in this gap he giggled.
Like any good musician Charlie was able to be part of the music making, finding a clear voice and role: he was able to equally communicate, listen and respond with us on a level that said we all understood the language of making music together – like musicians who ‘jam’ and know when the feel is right: Charlie understood. Click here to see a short video of Charlie.
Lydia was born with a rare neurological condition which resulted in her being profoundly mentally and physically disabled. She, and the whole family, was supported at a children’s hospice where we placed a music therapist. In the words of her mum:
‘As a family, we all benefitted from it at different times and in different ways. Lydia died when she was just over three years old……In music therapy, we watched our beautiful non-verbal little girl find a special way of communicating.
The sessions were a beautiful gift, encouraging us to be together in a deeper, more profound, more attentive way of being family, when often our life was highly chaotic and the essential thing was simply surviving another day.
We feel confident that when Lydia arrived at the hospice the night before she died, hearing the familiar sounds of Sarah’s flute and guitar helped her to relax, knowing that she was safe in her ‘home from home’, and enabling her to surrender peacefully to her dying. It was just how we hoped she would die, not with tubes and machines in a hospital environment, but feeling safe and held by the community in which she had spent so much time and in which she felt loved.’
Hannah is a girl with autism who had music therapy sessions supported by Jessie’s Fund over a period of time. Her music therapist told us that during her first one-to-one session ‘it seemed like a dam had broken open….. Her inhibitions seemed to melt and I received eye contact constantly, face-to-face contact and also hand contact. She smiled a lot and was excited and enthusiastic.’
When she started music therapy she was able to remember and say words in song, but she did not participate in meaningful speech. Her music therapist encouraged her to sing a request for a biscuit, raisin or glass of water to a familiar tune. At first she learnt to sing these requests, but before long she was actually saying them: at the age of 12 her music therapy has brought her to the point of meaningful speech and she will hopefully be able to benefit from the additional help of a speech therapist.