by Author KateR-zoladay

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Working with deaf and hearing impaired children - Recent project

A very enjoyable project exploring sound, music and vibration with deaf and hearing impaired children and adults.

I enjoyed working with my colleagues from the NMPAT inclusion team and with the children, support staff and volunteers who attended our music project.  I was genuinely nervous about this workshop prior to the day, I have worked with deaf children before on several projects, very well supported by former ACE deaf audience development officer Ian Carpenter, but this was a long time ago. We decided for this project to work in ‘zones’ and take the children round a variety of activities that were both sonically and visually interesting

We experimented with using balloons to help feel vibrations and all enjoyed this very much, particularly holding the balloon against our chests and leaning on the timpani’s and other drums. We tried a range of instruments including stringed instruments, a range of percussion, organ, piano and the tuba (great for putting hand in the end and feeling the vibrations and also getting the sound with ‘buzzing’ lips was fun) The adults in the group were very helpful and expressed enjoyment, told us about what they could or could not hear of feel and also supported us and the children brilliantly. We all felt that we were learning and experimenting and enjoying together.

The children enjoyed the day, although were very tired at the end of it and we agreed that a shorter day would be better another time. Although we used the last part of the workshop to ‘chill’ in the chill out zone and write a musical story together.

Some interesting discoveries were:

One person could ‘hear’ the flute and enjoyed this

One person was excited about the fact that low frequencies appeared ‘high’ to him and high frequencies did not register at all

We recorded vocal sounds and looked at the wave forms created from this as an additional point of interest and exploration

Visual aspect to the project through different zones and places decorated worked well

Good pace of activities – some time for solo instruments and some group work

Balloons help to amplify vibrations and it was interesting and fun to experiment with this

Simple rhythms allowed some to engage with drum patterns as when there was a lot of beats (and vibrations) this obscured the pattern and it became ‘noise’

We created a range of music together, starting the day with a 'happy' improv using guitars, drums, flute and other instruments, we moved onto using large drums and working with some signals (stop, slow, start, fast) and we also found the pulse or heartbeat together. We went onto explore African drums and rhythms and played a peice together, two children particularly enjoyed the 'balaphon's' or wooden xylophones and they performed this happily to the group in the afternoon. We spent time during the afternoon exploring individual sounds of a range of instruments and also experiencing DJ decks, story music and song writing. Overall the feedback from the participants (in particular supporting staff) was that we had provided a very enjoyable and interesting project. The CEO of the organisation said that the work had made her realise that 'music was for deaf children' 

A personal piece of happiness: I am able to sign a little as I have a family member who is profoundly deaf and enjoyed chatting in sign with the group (with support from patient participants and interpreter!) I was pleased that for the first time I was told my sign was ‘good’ and not as my more fluent family often tease me ‘rubbish and slow!’ but mostly I was pleased that a simple skill such as some basic polite signs helped to start the day in a relaxed way and one of the volunteers commented that he was surprised and pleased that a musician could sign.