Holistic Communication


Feeling Music

"Tac-Tile Sounds"

Music Floors











My Phd research work consist of the following aims:

- To examine the Strategies and Theoretical models of the Function of Language for improving Communication for Acquired Deafblind People, their Family members and Interpreters.
- To analyse and identify how these different methods and techniques can be applied to improve the quality of communication.
- To identify internationally the most common methods how a person is able to describe their own Emotional feelings, to interpret Environmental information and Non-verbal signals to Deafblind persons through using Touch.
- To produce Articles, Videos and Teaching Materials during the research.


Interviews, Video-recording and producing Questionnaires in the European countries.


This Research work was initially aimed at the Acquired Deafblind groups of people and Family members. However, it appears that these communication methods can be adapted for other groups also.

Furthermore, the importance of interpreting Body Language, Gestures and other Non-verbal Communication methods, assist couples in improving their relationships together and towards other people. These same techniques can assist professionals, interpreters and guides who are working with Visual, Usher Syndrome and other Sensory impaired groups.

Family members and interpreters need information on how the progressive loss of hearing and vision will affect their quality of conversation. Couples need to identify the different techniques of communication, so they can choose the most suitable methods to save their energy and to keep the quality of conversation when walking, travelling or doing every day things together with their partners.

Holistic communication in my presentation means being able to identify the whole interpreting situation and the elements involved through the whole process. When there are at least two or more people, they "work" together and react to the elements of both their internal (past, experiences etc.), and external (environment), to the place and objects around them, which is known as orientating to the context of the situation.

Interactive means these people involved in the interpreter-situation (deafblind & interpreter-guide) will be sending and receiving messages all the time, this also applies when there does not appear to be any movements or "active" interpreting. Guiding in itself, is one way to interpret the environment for the deafblind person. This means that our body is actively moving around and will be sending messages through our muscles of the whole body (steps, feedback to conversation, stop, starting etc.).

My research work started about ten years ago when meeting couples, where a partner has a dual-sensory impairment. During the conversations and observations, I started to collect data on how they solved their every day activities together. I was very interested in those couples who seem to cope very well in different kind of situations during the day, and was interested to know what methods they were using. At the same time I noticed that in my interpreting work, there appeared to be more "quick messages" in situations with the deafblind person, which we did not have to agree before hand. The messages appeared to be spontaneous and automatic. So, are there some kinds of elements, which we do as interpreters, and are deafblind people able to understand the messages in the appropriate context? Can we create a way to communicate to a new situation?

I noticed the body movements were always there in the interpreting situation, working either with totally deafblind (hands-on signing), hard of hearing deafblind (hearing aid users with loop system), or deaf-deafblind (visual frame signing) persons. By analysing some of these well-functioning methods of transmitting and receiving non-verbal information, I noticed some of these elements were either connected to each other, or were not taken either from the spoken or sign languages at all.

My First Article, which includes a case study, is going to focus and analyse the body feedback methods and confirmation systems. For example if we take the word "yes", we move our head using a "nodding" movement (up & down), taking this same body motion further, we can apply the same movement to our hand or finger, by tapping on the persons arm or hand. This same motion can be further recognised through using our body movements like hips and/or shoulders.

By analysing how each others bodies are moving and responding, even when we are talking or signing, it makes us realise that we use our body movements "unconsciously", to respond to others. I use here the word "Haptic System", when we are reading or making our comments through our bodies. The Haptic system include our tactile information of our environment (active, passive), our kinestic movements, and how we can use our personal space when communicating with deafblind people. When we are interpreting for deafblind people, each interpreter have their own individual personalities, so it is very important that we start to understand our way to use touch as a communication tool, and to identify what elements are involved and how the other person interprets it.

One specific area I am focusing on, is our "kinestic interpreting", using just our body movements, such as a finger, hand or the whole body:

- hand movement; when describing a table to the deafblind using their back
- hand movement; when describing a scenery (a picture) to the deafblind using their back
- body movement; in a painting exhibition creating together the picture


The aim of the work is to identify methods and techniques of giving information safely, quickly, and being able to save energy from both partners viewpoint. At the same time to ensure that the information is of a good quality, so the deafblind person can be more actively involved in social circumstances. This surely would be the aim. Deafblind people need to be at an equal level, to be involved in this process of finding the most suitable methods and techniques. Teaching and training of both partners, deafblind and interpreter-guides, needs to be encouraged, by starting to analyse their own processes such as: where, how and when to use touch i.e. the haptic & body methods in a respected way.

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My research work consists of the following aims:

- To examine the Strategies and Theoretical models of how people with a sensory impairment are able to express and feel music through their bodies and/or the use of the residual hearing.
- To analyse and identify the different styles of music which can be applied in a relaxation and rehabilitation programme.
- To analyse the different non-verbal communication methods and techniques which will assist the deafblind person to become more interactive in an individual or group environment.
- To identify internationally the different vibroacoustic technologies and to increase the awareness and effective uses of these facilities.
- To produce articles and write a book during the research.


Interviews, Workshops, Video-recording and producing Questionnaires in the European countries.


The idea of using music with sensory impaired people is a relatively new area which requires an understanding of how we ’visualize’ and ’interpret’ music by feeling the vibrations and rhythms from the music being played, or created using musical instruments. Perhaps this idea can be described as a new approach, like ’Feeling the Music Philosophy’ as defined by Palmer (1994), to feel music through vibrations instead of listening to music through our ears. How are people with a sensory impairment able to experience music, play an instrument, identify different music styles in a visual way ? How are deafblind people able to share in this same experience ?

Interpreting and identifying different 'styles' of music using 'body senses' is a physiological method of experiencing music through vibrations. Music Therapy treatment using vibroacoustic technology is becoming an important part of rehabilitation for people who have a sensory impairment, including those with Profound & Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). People with a 'dual-sensory impairment' suffer from tensions in the eyes, head, neck, shoulders and legs and one application for research is to identify how the physiological functions are affected through having to use additional senses in the bodies in order to hear and see. For example people who lipread in conversation have to use a large amount of energy through their eyes and positioning of their bodies.

Working with sensory impaired people who have PMLD requires patience, sensitivity and the ability to communicate through basic Sign Language. A combination of skills using TCRM techniques (Touch-massage, Communication, Relaxation using Music and Movements) as defined by Palmer (1994), provides this client group an opportunity to experience music using qualitative methods.

Helsinki Deaf School in Finland and the Royal School for the Deaf in Manchester, have been the basis of my research and both schools have adopted some new approaches which fulfils the school’s National Curriculum. Perhaps existing teaching methods of using music with sensory impaired groups needs to be re-assessed and evaluated, by adopting a more ’flexible and holistic’approach, which enhances the student’s ’Quality of Life’.

My research work started in 1990 when I became interested in the use of Indonesian Gamelan musical instruments, since the vibrations from the gongs and metalaphones were extremely powerful. During my studies at Sibelius Academy, Helsinki in Finland 1995-99 I was fortunate to work with Petri Lehikoinen and to be introduced to the world of Vibroacoustics, musicmedicine qaulifying as an International Music Therapist in 1999. It was during this period I became aware and started to understand how to perceive and feel music. It is clear to me now we need to examine and identify how people with a sensory impairment are able to 'feel' and 'perceive' music. Furthermore, more research is required to analyse and identify the physiological and neurological benefits of how music can be applied in a relaxation and rehabilitation treatment therapy programme. This paper is based on my own independent research work over a period of seven years, travelling around Norway, UK and Finland and I hope in the near future to expand this work in the fields of Music Therapy, VibroAcoustics and MusicMedicine.


Using a combiniation of methods and techniques incorporating musical instruments, movements and drawing, sensory impaired children have access to music. Perhaps there needs to be a more flexible understanding of how we can ’feel and move with music’ which can support this 'new' philosophy to 'feel the vibrations' instead of by 'listening to music'. The movement of music can be illustrated by musical instruments, movements and drawing techniques ie. patterns and symbolic images in a ’visual way’. This is one area of research which needs to be assessed and evaluated further.

Vibroacoustic therapy is relatively a new and complex area which encompasses the fields of 'Music Therapy', 'Physiology', 'Psychotherapy', 'Psychology', 'MusicMedicine (Neurology)' and 'Vibroacoustics'. Research with sensory impairment people is still a specialised field of work, which needs to be expanded and understood. "Feeling the Music Philosophy" is a new concept which will take time to be absorbed by teachers and professionals in this field of work.

A summary of the principle areas :

- Styles of Music
- Feeling & Expressing rhythms
- Visualising the flow of the Music
- Drawing and Music
- Movements & Musical Instruments
- Vibroacoustic Technology

The application of music as a curriculum subject in the Special Educational school’s sector, perhaps needs to be re-evaluated and re-assesed, in order to avoid duplication and unnecessary stress for teachers. There appears to be a large number of sensory impaired people including those with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD), who need to have access in experiencing music, through feeling the vibrations, TCRM techniques, memory of music or developing ’residual hearing’, with or without the use of hearing aids. Similarly music activity leisure programmes as defined by Palmer (1994, 1996), will assist in improving those students with PMLD, a better "Quality of Life".

The "Power of Music" in the Therapy Sector does have a role to play. Evaluating teaching methods and practices used in Scandinavia would increase greater awareness and acknowledgement of the Therapy practices (Music, Drama, Art & Movements). These ideas could be applied and adopted both in the UK and Europe. Introducing new music programmes which have a more ’Holistic Approach’ as a ’Educational’ and ’Therapeutic’ tool, will encourage greater interaction between pupils, patients and professionals.

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