Blind teen teaches herself to play accordion

Ashley Farrell, 18, was born blind and recently diagnosed with autism, but it's her love of music that has taught her and those around her about the finer things in life.

Music 'good for the soul,' says Ashley Farrell, born blind, recently diagnosed with autism

Blind teenager teaches herself to play the accordion

7 years ago
Duration 0:29
Featured VideoNewfoundland teen Ashley Farrell was born blind and was recently diagnosed with autism. Her passion for music keeps her playing on.

Ashley Farrell loves music.

The 18-year-old from St. Alban's, on the south coast of Newfoundland, plays everything from the tin whistle and the recorder to maracas and the harmonica. In fact, the teen has a plastic container filled with instruments that she's collected over the years. 

But it's the latest instrument in her collection that's getting the most attention these days — a button accordion.

"It got sent in the mail Christmas Eve. And I knows how to play it off by heart," says Farrell. 

The accordion was a Christmas gift from the St. Alban's Lions Club. 

Lion Howard Walsh remembers the day the instrument was donated. 

"Pretty much tear-jerking, put it that way," said Walsh. "Everyone was in awe. Christmas Eve she opened it up, away she went. It was great. She was just, so glad to have her own big accordion." 

Teaching the family 

Ashley's mother, Yvonne Farrell, said her daughter — who was born blind and was recently diagnosed with autism —always gravitated toward sound, and it helps her cope with daily obstacles. 

Music, said Farrell, is something Ashley has to herself. 

Ashley Farrell, left, sits with her little sister Keira Farrell-MacDonald and their mother, Yvonne Farrell. (Melissa Tobin/CBC)

"This is something she's totally learned completely on her own. She spends most of her waking hours either listening to music or playing music, or inventing music.… It's really noisy, but I'm very used to that."

Farrell said the whole family is learning from Ashley's music. 

"It's taught her patience, for one. It's taught me patience. She kind of gets lost in her music and she likes to have her time alone without anyone bugging her so she can play her music and learn different styles and techniques." 

'One of her best friends is her music'

Ashley's little sister, Keira Farrell-MacDonald, also sees the special bond her sister has with music. 


It's taught her patience, for one. It's taught me patience.- Yvonne Fowler


"It's probably in her heart and she probably really loves it. I think one of her best friends is her music."

The nine-year-old sometimes plays with her big sister. In January, the two played a community concert to help raise money for sneakers lost in the Bay d'Espoir Academy fire. And they are preparing for another fundraiser later this year. 

But for Ashley, playing is something much bigger. 

"You know music is good for the soul." 

With files from The Central Morning Show