As Mr. Van Raalte explored the capabilities of the BodySynth, it became apparent that it might be useful for persons with disabilities. In 1998 he contacted, RCH, a local recreation center for adult persons with disabilities and asked if he might conduct music therapy classes there. They welcomed the idea. Weekly sessions were conducted for 6 months. Between 1997 and 2000 Mr. Van Raalte conducted similar sessions at the Bridge School (a school for disabled children in Belmont, CA). This work is described in a paper he presented at The Technology and Persons With Disabilities Conference 1998 at Cal State Northridge ("Old Dog, New Tricks. Biofeedback as Assistive Technology"). Briefly, the protocol was as follows. Two BodySynth units were used to accommodate participants. Each client was assessed as to what part of his or her arm to sample based on their abilities. Each was assigned their own sound (drum, guitar, flute, etc.) and specific rhythm pattern that was pre-programed. Their movements would stop and start their sequences as well as vary notes.
One goal was to determine if the client could recognize their own "music". A second was to encourage group participation and interaction. On both accounts there was modest success. When a participant understood that they were controlling their sound motif, their sense of empowerment was visable and palpable. Group interaction was especially apparent with the children. They responded to the direction of their "conductor" with crescendos of sound and smiles.
The BodySynth has great potential as an assistive device for persons with physiclal disabilities (both chronic and short term). Biofeedback (which uses the same technology) has been used in physical therapy for decades. With The BodySynth, patients can self-monitor their target muscles via pleasant, intuitive, musical feedback. It is also ideal for patients with a permanant physical disability (eg. stroke) that prevents them from experiencing the joy of making muisic. A single functioning muscle under voluntary control (the blink of an eye or the tap of a finger) can, with practice, create notes, rhythms, music and potentially art.