Sounds of Intent

The first guest post of the year has been written by Sum Yee Chan who is a specialist in Genitourinary medicine in London. She has recently completed a course entitled Sounds of Intent at Roehampton University. Sounds of Intent is a framework of musical development for children with learning difficulties. According to the university; ‘The Sounds of Intent programme is designed to enable practitioners to gain the skills and understanding necessary to use the Sounds of Intent framework to assess children and young people’s levels of musical development and devise music policies and curricula.’ Here, Sum Yee  outlines her experiences.

I have  recently completed a course run by Roehampton University in the Department of Education on special educational needs and music (Post Graduate Certificate in Sounds of Intent).I have an amateur music background and do not work in this field, none the less I found the course to be very valuable and have gone back into a school to lead a weekly music session there.

The course is led by Prof Adam Ockelford who is Professor of Music.  The Sounds of Intent project was set up in 2002 in conjunction with the RNIB.  Prior to that there was little or no research into musical development in children with special educational needs.  The PROMISE report in 2001 (Welch, Ockelford and Zimmerman) was a survey of 52 special schools providing education for 2758 pupils, this highlighted a large variation in music provision for children with special needs.  It also recognised that music provision is important for the general social and educational development of children away from the musical setting.  The Sounds of Intent project is an evidence-based web site which enables practitioners to map the musical development of children in three domains:  reactive, proactive and interactive over time.  There are example videos on the website to show each level.   Anyone reading this blog post can use it, as it is completely free. 

The site can be used for children (and adults) with any level of special educational needs ranging from profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) to those with extraordinary musical skills.  The website has now been viewed by over 6.2 million people around the world and is used to develop music policies and curriculums in many schools for special educational needs around the UK.  The project has been launched in many countries around the world and was recently listed as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its impact on people’s lives (Universities UK).     
Another recent development has been a pilot project in conjunction with Trinity College London, where people who are unable to take traditional graded examinations in any instrument, including piano, due to their disability are able to gain an accreditation from a recognised exam board.  The pilot focused on the lower levels of Sounds of Intent, but the aim is to extend that to include all levels of musical ability. 
Through the course, I was also introduced to many different organisations for disabilities and music. This includes charities such as The Amber Trust which provides grants for children with visual impairment to have music lessons or equipment. Also OHMI, which helps physically disabled musicians with e.g. specially adapted instruments.

Music has been and continues to be very important in my life and I hope that it can be an important part of people’s lives irrespective of disability or special educational needs

More Information:


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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