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February 2016 Archives

February 21, 2016

Ethan, echolocation and exceptional talent


Ethan, aged 10, lives in Glasgow and has exceptional musical talent, memorising a Beethoven piano sonata movement before he was 4 years old - although his hands were then too small to play the octaves, his mother explained. Now he plays Rachmaninov preludes, and his own compositions - listen here (all photos courtesy of BBC Radio 4's Seriously documentaries). So when he won a place at St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh against stiff competition, he faced a challenging daily journey from home in Glasgow, by train across central Scotland to Haymarket station, finally to the school at Coates Hall. In today's world, many 10-year-olds would find that challenging. And Ethan had been home schooled all his life, because Ethan has been blind since birth.


This colossal challenge meant that Ethan needed help. Enter Daniel Kish, an American adult who has been blind since birth. He has developed an extraordinary form of echolocation using tongue-clicks, which he teaches to other blind people to help them to navigate the unseen world. He uses subtle variations in the click-echoes to detect the shapes and locations of obstacles. Watch him in action, identifying playground equipment, distant buildings and a tall tree here. It's uncanny - as if he has learned to see through his ears.

The story of how Daniel taught Ethan to navigate through the external world and around St Mary's was told on radio last Sunday in the Seriously series: listen here to the full story of Batman and Ethan. Daniel's teaching of Ethan includes a challenging climb of Dumyat (a 418-m peak in the Ochils), and promotes enormous independence and self-confidence. It culminates with his solo performance at the school concert. The whole programme was written, produced and presented by my talented niece Helena Merriman.

About February 2016

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in February 2016. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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