Alex, aged 9, has profound and multiple learning disabilities which make it difficult for him to communicate. He also lives with chronic pain. This was Alex’s third music session with LMN musician Caroline.
Just before the session started, Alex was unsettled and crying out, but when Caroline started to play, he immediately ‘stilled’ and started to focus on the sound of the clarinet. At one point in the session when Caroline stopped playing, Alex began to cry out again but stopped when he heard the clarinet once more in response to his vocalising. The same thing happened twice more.
This video clip shows the end of the 20-minute session. Here, Alex was not only able to follow the sound of the clarinet with his eyes, but also vocalised quietly towards the end of the piece and then reached out to touch the clarinet as the song ended. Caroline extended the song for an extra few bars into the lowest register of the instrument in response to this to allow Alex to feel the vibrations of the sound. Music provided an opportunity for a meaningful interaction between Caroline and Alex, and a way for Alex to communicate.
Caroline Waddington (clarinet) joined Live Music Now with Vista Trio in the North West. The ensemble formed in 2009 as postgraduate students at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. Caroline is one of six Live Music Now musicians across the UK taking part in a new three year training initiative designed to equip LMN musicians with the skills and experience to perform for and work with young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). This was made possible through funding from the National Foundation for Youth Music and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation (Arts Based Learning Fund). For more information on Live Music Now’s INSPIRE SEND programme please click here.