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Trial and error to find what worked for Joe

Initially, students experimented with a variety of devices. But Joe wasn’t impressed. Joe ‘speaks’ by using his eyes to select vocabulary written in cells on a grid on his communication aid.

“He’s very fluent with it,” says Rebecca, Higher Level Teaching Assistant at the school, “but we soon realised he didn’t want to use this to make music, or anything like it. He wanted more freedom, and to explore other tools.”

A turning point

Barry and his colleague Doug had just finished creating a new instrument, so decided they’d give it one last try with Joe.

“This new device was incredible in that it gave him a freedom of movement he’d never enjoyed before,” explains Rebecca. “Joe finds it hard to relax his arms because he has very high muscle tone as a result of his Cerebral Palsy. Sometimes the more he tries, the tighter it gets. We removed Joe’s armrests, and he would lower his arms and move them to trigger the music. This meant he could take complete control of the sound, and he really was creating that music himself, making decisions about how he wanted to express himself.”

Barriers gone, Joe was in full control

The final performance, where three orchestras performed together, was a highlight and revealed another important aspect of the technology for Joe: coming out from behind his communication device.

Rebecca says: “He’s a real performer, a people person. He wasn’t restricted, and had full mobility using his arms – he really loved that.”

I created music using the Kinect sensor but also listened to music, to fellow members, for my cue to come in. I had to watch the conductor, and know and understand when to play. I think I benefited from working in a group. It made me feel amazing. I’d like to be able to teach others all about the youth orchestra and my journey. It was cool.


Watch Joe make music

You can see Joe making music from 07:18-08:15 in this video from OpenUp Music.

Case study researched and written by Anita Holford: