Glasgow & West Scotland

The girl who communicates through drums

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Media captionYouTube videos of Grace's drumming have been watched thousands of times

When she was six, Grace Tedeschi stopped talking to her parents for a year.

The only person she would speak to - in a whisper - was her younger sister.

Now aged 11 and diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, she still only talks to a few adults - but she has a talent that allows her to interact with the world around her.

She drums.

The schoolgirl from Inverkip, on the west coast of Scotland, began taking drumming lessons during the year she stopped talking.

Since then, she has not had a single conversation with her drumming teacher Lesley McLaren.

It's not a problem.

"It's easy really. She's so enthusiastic and her facial expressions - I've become quite good at reading what she means if I ask her a question that doesn't have a straightforward yes or no answer," said Lesley.

"She does have a notepad and a pen that she brings with her as well but we never use it."

Grace's mutism developed suddenly as she entered the second year of primary school. Her father Marc recalls the day she stopped talking.

"That morning as we got her up for school, she was pretending to be asleep," he told BBC Scotland's Kaye Adams programme.

"We actually had to physically carry her out of bed, down the stairs, try to get her to eat, which she wouldn't do. We had to dress her, take her to school - and the whole time she didn't say a thing."

Image copyright Marc Tedeschi
Image caption For almost a year, Grace would only talk in whispers to her sister Eva, left.

Days, then months passed - but for almost a full year Grace would not speak to anyone except her four-year-old sister.

"She would whisper really quietly to her - and she would communicate on her behalf," Marc said.

The following summer, there was an equally dramatic change.

"Out of the blue one day, she came in during the summer holidays and was talking like nothing had ever happened," said Marc.

"Our jaw just dropped and we had to pretend that it was all perfectly normal."

Grace still only speaks to certain people - including her parents and other children.

She was initially diagnosed with selective mutism - a severe anxiety disorder - but Marc believes her condition is linked to Asperger's.

Image copyright Marc Tedeschi
Image caption Grace would like to play in a band

None of this has got in the way of her passion in life - drumming.

"At the age of five, she got just a small kids' drum kit, nothing special," Marc said.

"She was straight behind it and never off it - and we could see, she's actually got rhythm there.

"That's when we looked into getting drumming lessons for her."

Videos of Grace drumming have been shared widely on YouTube. Her teacher Lesley believes she clearly has talent.

She said: "She's so natural.

"From the very first moment she sat down at the drums, how she holds the stick, how she can groove along to a song.

"You can't actually teach that."

Her teacher added: "She had all this natural flow from the very beginning. It's been great being able to nurture her along.

"We've never had a conversation but it's easy really."

Autistic spectrum

Janet Halton, a music therapist at Nordoff Robbins Scotland, believes music is a great way of helping people who find it hard to communicate in other ways.

She said: "We work with a lot of individuals on the autistic spectrum.

"Because of the difficulties people on the spectrum have around social skills and communication, music is more indirect way of communicating with people.

"If individuals find it difficult to express themselves with words, then music can be something really engaging or motivating when they maybe don't have the capacity to express themselves otherwise."

Grace would like to become a drum teacher or play in a band. It's not clear if she will start speaking more - but her parents are happy with the person she has become.

"She really came out of her shell when we stopped with the selective mutism treatment and just let her be Grace," said Marc.

"She is Grace, she has Asperger's and that's who she is. We can't change that and we don't want to. It would be taking away her personality."