Exploring the musicality of children and young people with retinopathy of prematurity
- Paperback / softback, 140 pages, 297 mm x 210 mm
- 1 Dec 2009
- Institute of Education
Adam Ockelford is Professor of Music at Roehampton University and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Education, having formerly been Director of Education at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Adam is Secretary of the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), Chair of Soundabout, and founder of the Amber Trust, a charity that supports visually impaired children in their pursuit of music.
At the time of the study, Christina Matawa was Head of Music at Dorton House School in Sevenoaks, Kent, a school for visually impaired children run by the Royal London Society for the Blind, where she taught for five years. Christina now works for the Wandsworth Visual Impairment Specialist Teaching Service, supporting children and young people of all ages at home and in mainstream schools.
Part I Introduction
2 What is retinopathy of prematurity?
Part II The Survey
3 The participants
4 Parents' perceptions of their children's interest in everyday sounds and music
5 Parents' perceptions of the importance of music to their children in different contexts and at particular times
6 The participants' musical abilities: parents' perceptions and other evidence
7 Parents' accounts of their children's engagement with music and the provision of music education and therapy
Part III Case studies
A fascinating and important book that is a timely addition to work that crosses the boundaries between music therapy and music education.
Since the recent spate of studies on the influence of musical education on children, it has become 'common knowledge' that music education positively influences development of extra-musical abilities. This has come as a relief to those of us in the field of music education who have been advocating that music remain a part of the academic curriculum. And now, with the findings of Focus on Music 2, I suspect that it will contribute to the 'common knowledge' that a higher percentage of students with ROP and SOD have musical ability, than those without those medical conditions. Hopefully, this will further contribute to the recognition of the vital role of musical therapy and education for children with these medical conditions. The joy we all feel in seeing these children thrive while listening to and making music is naturally accompanied by hopes and expectations that they become well rounded performers on their instrument(s). While I believe that in many cases this hope is realizable, I have also found that there is little correlation between the student's musicality, and their innate physical skills on their instrument. Therefore, in those cases where the student lacks an innate virtuoso technique, (the majority of cases), and because their visual impairment prevents them from modelling proper technique, the student will often require the guidance of experienced and creative music teachers in order to develop their instrumental skills. Further research into the physical aptitudes required to be a competent instrumentalist, and helpful teaching strategies for students with ROP and SOD, would seem to be a productive line for further research and exploration.
From the perspective of this reader, who is blind, the findings are not surprising. What fills me with a warm glow about this book, so lovingly put together, is that those who take what the authors have learned to heart can offer children and young people the one thing their music worlds lack--companionship. Learning and sharing with another, who puts the student's interests first, will start the imagination crafting dreams and plant the seeds for building on them.
This publication will be of great interest to parents and practitioners from a range of perspectives. In it Ockelford and Matawa carefully consider research evidence for the particular importance of musical development of young people with ROP, relating this to the findings of previous research, as discussed in the first book of the series. The authors are successful in achieving the very significant aim of explaining the relevance of their research to practitioners, with great clarity and with the benefit of backgrounds that include experience in working as both successful practitioners and researchers. Numbered points at the end of each section offer useful additional information or explanations. The case studies include fascinating and sometimes highly poignant accounts of young people that have visual impairment, including those with a range of learning difficulties. Assessment of their musical development illustrates the use of the Sounds of Intent (SOI) Framework, which clearly demonstrates the main tenet of the authors’ argument: that neither visual impairment nor learning difficulties need be a barrier to musical fulfilment and potential achievement. Practitioners’ use of the SOI framework as an assessment tool may well show how a child’s musical perception may have developed in advance of other skills. In my experience, no previously published analysis of early musical development for the purpose of assessment includes such well-researched detail.
The special value that music may have for people with ROP, with or without additional difficulties is powerfully highlighted, with reference to the particular qualities of music, as a means of personal expression, and for making sense of, and engaging with their environment. I would highly commend this publication to any practitioner working with people with a visual impairment, with or without additional learning difficulties.
The Focus on Music books explore and highlight the fortuitous link that often exists between visual impairment and musical abilities, sometimes at an exceptional level. These two experienced music teachers and education specialists provide the background both to types of visual impairment—in this volume Retinopathy of Prematurity—as well as the background on the curious and conspicuous frequency of special musical ability and achievement in persons with visual impairment from whatever cause. They raise many interesting questions such as is the perfect pitch so often seen in such individuals a special endowment of this group, or it is rather a preservation of endowment often lost in sighted individuals? Most important though they optimistically point out, with very practical suggestions, advice and cautions, that neither visual impairment nor learning difficulties need be a barrier to musical fulfillment. Instead, such special musical sensitivity, probably because of rather than in spite of visual impairment, can be used to “train the talent” to the highest level of achievement that exists in each particular individual. For persons with visual impairment music does more than soothe the soul; it opens new vistas. This book is an encouraging and practical guide for “training the talent” and helping reach musical fulfillment in these persons along with all the useful other gains that accompany it.