This Website Turns Your Child's Artwork Into Music—Inspired by a Teen Who Is Nonverbal

"To all those who struggle to express themselves, this is for you."

Riley's Family Listening to Symphony
Photo: Courtesy of Unspoken Symphony

Riley, a 15-year-old girl from Texas, has never uttered a word—but that doesn't mean she can't express herself. Diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a type of epilepsy, tuberous sclerosis complex, a genetic disease that causes tumors to grow, and severe cognitive impairment, the nonverbal teen inspired a new website that's giving a voice to those who can't communicate with words.

"It's not easy getting to know someone who can't talk," Riley's dad has said. "You slow down. It makes you appreciate the little things." And that's what sparked the idea for Unspoken Symphony, a technology that translates artwork into a melody.

Many nonverbal people use art and music when they can't express themselves verbally, but it goes beyond just communicating. From boosting self-esteem to improving depression and anxiety to stimulating the brain, there's no doubting the benefits of art and music for a person's health.

For Riley, markers, paint, and paper are a go-to form of self-expression. By uploading a piece of her art to Unspoken Symphony, a unique melody can be created just for her.

Here's how it works:

  • Step one: Make some art, or pick out a masterpiece that's already been created.
  • Step two: Sign up at Unspoken Symphony by entering your name and email.
  • Step three: Upload your art to the site and edit it by cropping or brightening if necessary.
  • Step four: Check your email! The web-based image-recognition technology transforms the uploaded art into a piece of music you can play on your computer—with customized sheet music to match.

You can head to unspokensymphony.com to "hear the art" that's already been made and get an idea of what you can expect. According to the company, "every composition was created by someone with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Dravet syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, or by someone who struggles to express themselves with words." As the website states, "to all those who struggle to express themselves, this is for you. Let's make music."

But that doesn't mean all aspiring artists and musicians can't get in on the magic! Especially during the pandemic, it's never been easier to share a little art with family and friends no matter where they are.

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