Are Blind Kids More Musically Inclined?

Child playing an xylophone

The following is an open letter from Dr. Ockelford to parents of children with LCA:

I am undertaking a new study into how visual impairment affects the development of musicality in children. The research will focus on babies, children and young people with “Leber Congenital Amaurosis” (often called “Leber’s Amaurosis”). Focus on Music 3 will follow on from two earlier studies, the first involving children with septo-optic dysplasia (whose findings were published in 2006), and the second concerned with children with retinopathy of prematurity (published late in 2009).

The findings to date suggest that musical development really does tend to be different in children who are born with little or no vision, or who lose their sight shortly after birth. But the nature of their eye condition – particularly where this is linked to a wider syndrome – can be important too. So, for example, if your child has septo-optic dysplasia and has no useful vision, then the chances of him or her having “absolute pitch” (the ability to tell which note is which in music, just by listening) are greatly increased. If your child is blind through retinopathy of prematurity, however, they are even higher – about 4,000x more likely than for children who can see. This applies whether or not your child has learning difficulties.

Just what findings like these mean for the children concerned and their teachers is also an important part of the research – discovering which strategies are most effective in helping young people reach their musical potential, whether they want to engage in musical activities just for fun, or with more serious public performance in mind.

So, if your child has Leber’s Amaurosis – whether or not s/he seems to be particularly musical – and however young or old s/he is, and you would like to be involved in this new research, then please do get in touch, and I will email or post you a short questionnaire. In the meantime, if you have any questions, do contact me.

Thank you!

Adam Ockelford

Professor of Music, Roehampton University, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PU

Tel: 07818-456 472 Email: a.ockelford@roehampton.ac.uk


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