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Level 1, Interactive: relates unwittingly through sound

Observation

Attempting to interact with individuals through sound – prompting them by making sounds, responding to any sounds that they may produce and/or modelling interaction for them to copy – has no apparent effect.

Interpretation

Children, young people and adults have no sense of agency between ‘self’ and ‘other’ in the domain of sound.

I-1

I.1.A practitioners seek to stimulate interaction by prompting with sounds and responding empathetically to any sounds that are made

Individuals do not respond to practitioners’ efforts to interact through making sounds, and empathetic responses by practitioners produce no discernible reaction.

Strategies

Follow your intuitions as to how to communicate with people functioning in the very early stages of development: vocally, simplify what you do and use a sing-song quality in your voice, exaggerating salient features and employing a good deal of repetition. Try different approaches, ranging from the gentle and the subtle to the loud and the brash. In any case, be sensitive to any responses that may appear to be evoked, however idiosyncratic, all the while seeking to interpret a person’s personal sounds and other reactions as attempts to make contact, and react in turn to what they do. Effective working at this level is all about keen observation and empathy. You will need to start ‘where the person is at’, and, having made a sound, it may well be necessary to wait, allowing plenty of time and space for any movement or vocalisation that could be interpreted as a response. Remember, the purpose is to support the child, young person or adult in developing a sense of agency in the context of someone else. Intuition may suggest repeating (or varying) the sound that the person you are working with has made. Above all, your responses should be of a kind that you believe may potentially be stimulating and enjoyable – it is important to balance consistency with one’s intuitions as an interactive human being, in which variety is important too. As ever, it is a question of being imaginative but systematic. Further ideas for activities are to be found here. [DOC 32]

Context

Matthew has profound and multiple learning difficulties. Here here is having one of his weekly sessions with a music and communication specialist.

Observation

The practitioner responds to Matthew’s vocal sounds with similar sounds of her own.

Interpretation

It is not clear whether Matthew’s vocal sounds are influenced by what the practitioner does. A detailed analysis of another, similar session with Matthew, is to be found in the book Applied Musicology by Adam Ockelford.

I.1.B practitioners model interaction through sound

Individuals show no signs of responding to the interactions that are modelled.

Strategies

With a fellow practitioner (or family member or carer), model simple interactions, as equal partners in a simulated ‘give and take’ scenario in sound and music. The modelling may start very simply with the first party producing a single sound followed immediately by the second party repeating it. Practitioners may be seated either side of the person concerned, or one practitioner could be next to the person and other in front of them. Observe whether there is any physiological change, facial gesture or movement that could be interpreted as a response from the individual with whom you are working. Next, try turn-taking with a range of different sounds and modes of imitation. Try contrast. Vary the time between stimulus and response. Videoing what occurs and reviewing the session may help you to see reactions that weren’t obvious at the time. Further ideas for activities are to be found here. [DOC 33]

Context

Sahra has profound and multiple learning difficulties. Here, she is on a summer vacation scheme organised by her school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music. Two violinists, sitting either side of her, are engaged firstly in an improvised musical dialogue in which individual notes and motifs are imitated, and then in a game in which the musician plays only when Rianne turns her head towards her or looks at her.

Observation

Initially, Sahra does not respond to the violinists modelling imitation on either side of her, although they watch her intently, seeking to make eye contact and responding to her head movements. (Observe that Sahra does eventually reach out to touch the bow of the violinist on her right.)

Interpretation

This suggests that Sahra does not have an awareness of the musical interaction that is taking place (although she may have an emerging awareness of sound).

I.1.C activity to promote interaction through sound occurs in a range of contexts

Notwithstanding the variety of contexts, at most only reflex responses and ‘accidental’ interactions occur.

Strategies

For people with profound disabilities, it may well be most appropriate for you to undertake proto-interactive work on a one-to-one basis, in close proximity with the person concerned, with the minimum of external distractions. However, attempts to ‘kick-start’ interaction should rule nothing out, and different contexts – acoustic and social – should be tried systematically, from a small one-to-one therapy room to the hydrotherapy pool, from a resonant hall to an outdoor space. Are people with different voices (higher or lower, mellower or more grating, louder or quieter) more likely to evoke sound-making that could be interpreted as a response? Further ideas for activities are to be found here. [DOC 34]

Context

Kamil and his class have profound and multiple learning difficulties. They are on a summer vacation scheme organised by their school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music, which occurs in a number of different contexts. Here, the musicians are parading along a corridor, moving from one room to another. The music that is made sounds different from that heard in the classroom because of the corridor’s bigger acoustic, whose effect is constantly changing as the young people move through it.

Observation

Initially, there appears to be no response to the music that is played and sung (Three Little Birds). However, towards the end, Kamil rocks and vocalises.

Interpretation

A the beginning of the activity, the novel context appears to have no impact on Kamil's perception of the music. However, his rocking and vocalising towards the end suggest an emerging capacity to interact through sound.

I.1.D some activities to promote interaction through sound are multisensory in nature

Notwithstanding the addition of multisensory elements, at most only reflex responses and ‘accidental’ interactions occur.

Strategies

In ‘real life’, interaction through sound often occurs as part of a broader pattern of multisensory contact. Hence, it may be helpful to reflect this multimodality in encounters designed to promote interaction. Vocal sounds may usefully be supplemented with movement, gesture, touch, facial expressions and scent, for example, and evidence for an individual’s responses may be sought through any physical change. Follow your intutions but keep a careful note (including video records) or what occurs, to inform the work of other practitioners and for your own planning. Further ideas for activities are to be found here. [DOC 35]

Context

Raphael has profound and multiple learning difficulties. Here, he is on a summer vacation scheme organised by his school, at which a number of activities are offered, including music. In this session, there are five other participants with profound disabilities, one-to-one carers, and a group of musicians. A participatory activity is underway based on the song All Join In! from the Tuning In set.

Observation

Raphael is supported to join in on the cabassa by his one-to-one carer through co-active movement.

Interpretation

It is difficult to determine the whether Raphael has a sense of cause and effect and whether he is aware of the contribution to the musical interaction that the sounds of his cabassa are making.

Other video of Raphael

Raphael is exposed to live music making in R.1.B (a) (1st video).

Assessment

Since functioning at Level 1 implies having no observable sense of self or other, assessment at this level necessarily reflects the efforts of teachers, therapists and other practitioners to support the person concerned in interactions involving music and sound. The complete Sounds of Intent assessment matrix is to be found here [DOC 60] and downloadable assessment sheets here. [DOCS 61 & 62]

Emerging

Practitioners respond in sound to any sounds that are made unwittingly

Example 1

Richard is nine years old and has profound and multiple learning difficulties. As far as his teacher is able to tell, he does not respond to sound and music, though he vocalises loudly when he appears to be happy or excited. His teacher waits for each vocalisation to finish before responding with one that is similar, in the hope Richard will come to realise that his vocal sounds are having an impact on another person.

Example 2

Elsa is three years old, and has profound and multiple learning difficulties. She habitually taps objects that are placed under her right hand in short bursts of repeated sounds. Her mother tries to use this habit as a basis for communication. She puts a small drum under Elsa’s hand and, after each series of taps that Elsa makes, her mother taps back in return.

Achieving

Practitioners make sounds in anticipation of ones that are made unwittingly

Example 1

Niamh is 10. She has profound and mutiple learning difficulties. From time to time, she makes sounds with her tongue on her lips. In quiet moments, her parents make similar sounds in the hope that they will stimulate her to respond and begin a reciprocal exchange.

Example 2

Lenny is 17 and has profound and multiple learning difficulties. He frequently makes distinct vocal sounds that rise and fall. In intensive interaction sessions, his support worker at college makes similar sounds in an effort to stimulate Lenny to respond.

Excelling

Practitioners respond in sound to any sounds that are made unwittingly and make sounds in anticipation of ones that are made unwittingly

Example 1

Frank is in his forties, and has profound and multiple learning difficulties. He quite often rocks in his wheelchair. A musician who visits his home in the community puts clusters of bells on the arms of the chair that jingle when Frank moves to and fro. The musician has a similar set of bells that she jingles when she is working with Frank (and he is sitting still), to see whether he will want to respond by rocking. She also reacts to his movements by jingling her bells too.

Example 2

Rebecca is sixteen and has profound and multiple learning difficulties. She tends to make gurgling and laughing sounds when she is happy. Her teaching assistant makes similar sounds, both in an effort to stimulate a response and in response to Rebecca’s sounds.