Because music is a form of communication, it can be used to create a specific atmosphere or to deliver a story. Most people who listen to a piece of music can notice immediately what the intended emotion and message is.
As an allied health profession, music therapy is used for various purposes and can contribute greatly to the development of speech and language skills. As music can play an important part in language and speech development, we harness its power in speech therapy!
What is music therapy?
Music therapy has been around for ages ― ancient peoples used it in their rituals as it was believed to have a therapeutic effect on individuals. Music therapy is an established health profession in which the practitioner uses music to address the individual’s emotional well-being, cognitive skills, social and communication needs.
The link between music and language
Language is a symbolic medium of communication with endless meanings organised to convey a message. We don’t merely speak to be heard, but also to be understood. While speech is symbolic, the sounds we make are the actual bearers of the message.
It is interesting to know that spoken words can be perceived as either language or music, depending on how you listen. If you listen to a speech recording over and over again, it might start to sound like singing. The idea behind this is that as your attention to the meaning of the words is satisfied, you’ll notice other features like its melody.
“Music is essential for children who need speech and language therapy as it offers avenues of communication for youngsters who find it difficult to express themselves in words.”
From a very young age, basically from birth, children love listening to music. Young children pay attention to intonations, speech patterns and rhythm. When you sing to your child, they will develop a sense for syntax (or word order) and speech patterns, as well as enhance their vocabulary.
How music is used in speech therapy
Music is essential for children who need speech and language therapy as it offers avenues of communication for youngsters who find it difficult to express themselves in words. It can help a youngster’s receptive communication skills as well as their expressive communication skills. It also helps to stimulate their senses as well as motivates them.
Through singing and by listening to music, children can improve their articulation skills. Music also feels familiar to a child, which is why it is commonly used in the early intervention of speech disorders. It inspires them, they can bop along to the rhythm and most importantly, it’s fun!
Great songs to use in speech therapy are:
* Row, Row, Row Your Boat;
* Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; and
* The Wheels On The Bus.
Music isn’t just an essential part of the growth and development of our young, it also conveys emotion quite well, which can help with your little one’s social skills. Certain sounds can be associated with positive emotions like happiness, tranquillity or triumph while other sounds can express negative emotions like grief or anger. This will, of course, differ from culture to culture and across different time periods.
5 ways to use music when teaching language skills
Singing lullabies and reciting nursery rhymes to your child regularly will enhance their language acquisition as well as communication skills. But you have many more ways to combine music and speech into your speech therapy sessions at home.
#1. Let your child explore musical instruments If your child is allowed to explore his/her instruments, they’ll have the opportunity to get comfortable with the sounds. Encourage your child to talk about what they are doing.
#2. Get your child to listen to songs Will be a great way to start a session. Music is engaging and if you listen to a song that your child loves together with them, your session should be off to a good start.
You can also choose a song that’s about a certain concept that you want to teach your child. Sing or play it as an introduction to a specific topic.
“Listening to songs can also help to heighten your youngster’s hearing and listening skills….a good idea is to get them to make a sound on hearing a specific word in the song.”
Listening to songs can also help to heighten your youngster’s hearing and listening skills. For instance, a good idea is to get them to make a sound on hearing a specific word in the song. For example, tell your child to make a barking noise when he/she hears the word “dog” or “doggy” in the song.
#3. Encourage junior to move to the music Teach your child how to sway to the rhythm of a song and join in the fun, your kid will enjoy seeing you move along with him/her! Think about it, the movements you’ll make can count towards your child’s and your daily recommended physical activity.
#4. Urge them to sing along and play along Playing and singing along will build your little one’s attention, concentration, memory and listening skills. When your child plays along, make sure that the pace works for them. Sing slowly, so that your youngster can keep up with the words and actions ― this will also help them stick to the rhythm.
#5. Add props Using puppets or other props is another great idea that will help to develop your child’s fine and gross motor skills, even as this brings the objects to life.
Be proactive ― teach your little one to have fun with music and get them to belt it out. By doing so, you’re using the wonderful connection between music and speech to help your child reach their goals!
Dr Lisa Lim Su Li is the clinical director and senior speech language pathologist at The Speech Practice.
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