How music connected us to our daughter’s world

Chloe’s parents were at a low ebb when they found Sense. Their five-year-old daughter, who has autism and global developmental delay, wouldn’t engage with the world around her – or even smile. Sense helped the family to reach each other through music, as Wayne, Chloe’s dad explains.  

Chloe’s parents, Wayne and Laura, share their story. With special thanks to Tim, our former music artist, and players from Orchestra of the Swan.
Descriptive transcript of Chloe’s video

A young girl with blonde hair, Chloe, is playing the piano and singing. A lady playing a violin kneels next to her.

Wayne: Chloe loves rainbows and the only way I can explain is that she’s used the bridge from music and she goes over the rainbow into our world.

Chloe’s dad, Wayne, is talking to camera. He is wearing a red and black checked shirt and a black cap. The film cuts to a close up shot of Chloe’s hands playing the piano keys.

Wayne: It’s helped her find that link between the two, where she can be herself but show everybody else who she is at the same time.

Chloe’s mum, Laura, who has shoulder length red hair, is talking to camera.

Laura: Chloe has global developmental delay, sensory processing disorder and autism.

Chloe is playing on a yellow piano with a man, Tim, who is a Sense music artist. He is sitting next to Chloe, playing a drum to accompany her.

Wayne: We was always told that she might never talk and then two weeks later she came out with a sentence. She was told that she would be almost trapped in her own world, but the music has released that.

Chloe is exploring behind a large purple hanging curtain; she dashes to hide in the dark behind it.

Laura is talking to camera. She closes her eyes slightly as she remembers and describes her experiences.

Laura: We were very scared to be honest; we didn’t know much about it. Day-to-day life in the family, when we were at the start, was... It was very hard. Chloe was going through a very frustrating time. She was trying to communicate, but we didn’t understand any other form of communication, other than the spoken word.

Wayne dad is carrying Chloe in a big cuddle. She looks very peaceful.

Laura: I’d heard of Sense, but not that they dealt in, sort of, children with complex disabilities.

The next shot is of the Sense building where Chloe goes to play, the sign says ‘Sense Touchbase Pears’. Inside, Chloe is entering the music room with her mum, dad and two of her brothers. Chloe walks straight across the room to play the bright yellow piano.

Laura: The lady I spoke to was able to, almost understand fully Chloe’s needs and what groups would be best for her to join here.  Chloe’s a different person since coming here.

Wayne is talking to camera. Then the film cuts to a shot of Chloe sitting playing the yellow piano. Tim, the Sense music artist, is carrying a drum as he comes to sit on her left. They play together a short moment and then clap. Another lady comes to join them, crouching down on Chloe’s right side. Chloe turns to her, and they all clap in applause.

Wayne: We came to a session at Sense and Tim was up in his playroom, where we are today, and he was doing a music session and from that moment on she connected with him. We know she’s enjoying the Sense music sessions as she can focus.

Chloe is playing the piano before she stops to clap and smile, encouraging everyone to applause.

Wayne: She relaxes and she calms really well. Music is an extension of her.

Chloe is kneeling on the floor playing a jigsaw puzzle game on a yellow sofa. Laura, her mum, is sitting on the sofa with her, and one of Chloe’s brothers is leaning over the back of the sofa to watch. He smiles as he sees Chloe put one of the pieces in the correct place.

Laura: It’s kind of opened up a gateway.

Chloe’s oldest brother is carrying her in a close embrace. Chloe’s arms are wrapped around her brother’s neck and they look very happy and peaceful.

Wayne: Since coming to Sense her relationship with her brothers… it’s increased tenfold.

Chloe’s brothers are playing on drum-like instruments on the floor.

Wayne: My boys have found a way, through music, to connect with Chloe.

Chloe is singing as she plays the piano. A lady playing a violin and singing kneels next to her. The camera slowly pans down to Chloe’s hands on the keys.

Wayne: Chloe’s had quite a few breakthroughs. We was doing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and she copied me from start to finish. That was a very big moment.

Chloe is lying on the floor, smiling as she arranges some small colourful books in front of her. Wayne carries her across the room, they’re face-to-face and smiling. Wayne is slowly rocking Chloe from side to side as he spins her in his arms.

Wayne: We see the progress every day. With the help here at Sense and the way she’s progressing the sky’s the limit and we’re going to be there for the ride. Sense will be here with us too.

The scene fades slowly to white and two dots appear. Orange on the left and purple on the right. The dots spin around the screen then comes together in the centre, forming two hands with the letter S in the middle. This is the Sense logo. Text appears below the logo.

Sense. No one left out of life.

Chloe’s such a vibrant character, she has a passion for music and colour – she’s absolutely mad about the rainbow at the moment. Her love for life shines, but because she’s non-verbal, it’s something she expresses in her own way.  

It wasn’t until Sense that we found a meaningful way to connect and communicate with Chloe. She has global developmental delay, sensory processing disorder and autism, which was only diagnosed at the beginning of this year. 

She’s started to communicate a lot more over the last 12 months. Thanks to Sense, she’s got into music and it’s kind of opened up a gateway for her – for all of us. 

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Music brought us connection and laughter

From the first Sense music session with Tim, the resident music artist, Chloe connected with it. She played on the drums and was instantly calm and focused. This was such a change, as previously she’d never sit still or engage with other people.  

She formed a quick bond with Tim, who didn’t force any verbal communication with her but just played instruments and echoed the singsong sounds she made. 

It must have been a great release for Chloe, to find a way to express herself and feel understood. In those sessions, we were shown just how much music is an extension of her. Picking up a drum kit or playing the keyboard, it seems to sooth any frustration. 

Those music sessions definitely supported Chloe’s development more widely. The amount she’s progressed since March 2023, when she started the sessions… well, we just can’t believe it. She’s always come back from Sense a bit more confident, a bit more like a big girl. Like she’s walking with a rein instead of being in her pushchair and being more interested in communicating in other ways, like with her Makaton signs and even signing. 

One of the best things has been the improvement in her relationship with her brothers – that’s increased tenfold. Our boys sometimes struggled to get close to Chloe because she could be quite challenging. Our youngest wasn’t ever even acknowledged by her. But now they can all sit and play their instruments together, and she’ll even approach our youngest to play, which is so nice to see.  

The difference in her is huge. We have a lot more happier times as a family. She never used to smile or laugh but she does now. It sounds a small thing but actually that’s huge.  

Chloe and her brother in the playroom together at Sense TouchBase Pears.

Now we see the progress every day

Day-to-day life in the family was, until recently, hard. Chloe was going through a very frustrating time. She was trying to communicate, but we didn’t understand anything other than the spoken word. 

When she was diagnosed, it was completely new to us. We’d never heard of global developmental delay and had no idea what that meant. But from our first phone call with Sense, we knew we’d had a breakthrough; it was more information than we’d had in the last 12 months.  

We were always told that Chloe might never talk, but now we see the progress every day. Without Sense, I’m not absolutely sure where Chloe would be. The music and the Makaton signs they’ve given her has been a huge help. 

Chloe loves being twirled around in the arms of her dad, Wayne.

Chloe’s even trying to sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ at the moment. And she sang happy birthday to me, which was very emotional. I’m a big softie and she’s made me cry many times with these little glimpses she gives us into her world. 

Like I said earlier, Chloe loves rainbows, and the way I think about it is that music takes her over the rainbow into our world. It’s her bridge, the link between her world and ours, where she can be herself without being alone. That’s something we are eternally grateful for. 

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