Reaching out with music and movement

Researcher combines technology and musical improv to help kids with disabilities communicate

An international research partnership at the University of Guelph is helping children with severe mental and physical disabilities make music for the very first time. Using webcam technology that translates movement into music, researchers lead by Ellen Waterman are helping children with disabilities become more independent and increase their ability to communicate through musical improvisation.

With partners at universities across the US and Canada, as well as community organizations serving people with disabilities, Waterman’s team is documenting the therapeutic benefits of the software in the children’s lives. They have already seen children whose muscles tend to “lock” become more relaxed and gain greater movement of their limbs while using the software.

Waterman and her team are currently developing a user manual for therapists, teachers and parents, as well as adapting the software for children who are visually or hearing impaired.