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Sophie Fox

SALTMusic - A short case study

Sophie Fox’s SALTMusic case study, March 2017

Michael came to the SALT music group with his mum each week. He was a 2 rising 3 year old and had very little speech. The only vocalisations that were recorded in our first sessions were grunts, normally when indicating to something. Michael was very interested in the things we had set out in the room, often flitting from one thing to the next, rarely settling to anything for a sustained period. We used a variety of objects and instruments as provocations to encourage vocalisation, gestures and musical play.

Working in the Music Room allowed us as early years music practitioners to be very responsive to the child’s lead. A large neutral room, with easy, instant access to a wide range of high quality ‘proper’ instruments and large quantities of other props not usually associated with music making but that can provoke vocal play, giggles, free expressive body movements etc. We use sponges, silver foil, tubes, hoses, fabrics along with hand bells, chime bars, drums etc to create an immersive environment for the children to explore.

It became apparent that in this snapshot that we were seeing Michael we weren’t seeing many smiles or any laughter. His eyes brightened but the smile did not travel all the way to his mouth. He checked in regularly with his mum throughout a session and gradually developed confidence in the way that he approaches the instruments and props on offer. He also developed confidence in the way he sought interaction, however fleeting, from the practitioners and occasionally the other children in the room.

By repeating songs and creating rituals Michael became familiar with simple songs and motifs that we used week to week. He showed an understanding and expectation of some repeated musical voice play that used pauses and anticipation and release. Through marrying the musical elements with either hand actions or props such as balls or scarves, Michael could be part of the musical creation and expression by using his hands or props and through very subtle cues could become the ‘conductor’ through body language, eye contact, etc. He soon started to use some sign language in the groups, indicating ‘more’ when he wanted to repeat a song, as well as tentatively showing two sign sentences.

Game playing was a big part of the session and during the free play part we were looking to find the games that the children themselves were investigating. This would then inform the more structured part of the session which could involve singing songs. Michael was playing a game with his mum during this free play, and is where we heard his first belly laugh. Through observing this game and the positive response it got we copied the play - a part chase, a part peek a boo game – and used the elements of it in the structured part of the session with scarves. This play invented by Michael, and scaffolded by the practitioners in the room, explores the incredibly beneficial musical features of anticipation, pauses and release.

As the sessions continued, it was noted that Michael’s vocalisations, though still limited, where becoming more varied and his smile was beginning to travel more frequently to his mouth.

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