W is a 8 year old girl with severe and complex needs. She attends an ASN school and took part in a project that involved making a music video with pupils who would find it difficult to participate in a group. W had nineteen weekly individual sessions.
There was some question over whether W could hear. She rarely showed signed of engagement with others and took a passive role most of the time in her classroom. She had limited movement and favoured one side with her vision.
The first six sessions with W involved using a variety of musical instruments and ideas to try and establish what her preferences were. She gave no reaction to anything within these sessions, and often showed signs of physically withdrawing into herself. During session number seven we used a drum with a large surface area, allowing her to feel gentle vibrations from this drum on different parts of her body. During this activity she looked up and appeared to be aware and engaged. Over the next few weeks we experimented using this drum as the vehicle for all our interactions. A particular breakthrough was made by singing a sustained pitch, at the pitch where the skin of the drum best vibrated. During this activity W started responding, using her voice and matching the pitch exactly.
We used this method of interaction in all sessions, beginning to use different instruments, but always giving W the opportunity to feel the vibrations of what we were playing. It became clear that she could not only hear but had to ability to turn her head towards a sound, and control her fingers to pluck a string. By the end of the project, W had developed a beautiful way of interacting and communicating. With her chin on the scroll of a violin, she could pitch match with her voice any note within her vocal range played on the violin. She loved the give and take of this, sometimes copying exactly the length of the note, and sometimes changing it. While it was clearly incredibly hard work for her to use her voice in this way, she showed intense joy and animation while doing this.