The Benefits of Music in Speech Therapy
Music can be a great tool for speech-language pathologists to use with clients. Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) sometimes even work with music therapists to bring more of the benefits of music to their treatment plans for patients. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of music in speech therapy and some of the methods for using music in a therapy context.
The benefits of music in speech therapy
There are numerous benefits to incorporating music into therapy sessions.
Fun and expression
Music can be particularly useful in therapy because it’s fun and doesn’t necessarily feel like therapy. It is particularly common to use in early intervention speech therapy with children. Research shows that music is stimulating to children. Studies have suggested that infants respond more to a parent’s singing voice, rather than to their speaking voice. The melodic “up and down” nature of singing and playing music is something that our brains really respond to and enjoy all throughout life, but this may be especially true for young children.
May improve language skills
Music plays an important role in language learning. Studies have shown that learning music can lead to improved language skills in young children. Learning the difference between pitches correlates to better distinguishing spoken sounds, and therefore an improved understanding of spoken language.
Everyone can participate
Music is universal! Participating in music doesn’t necessarily require literacy or the ability to speak. Patients can exercise their communication skills through rhythm, movement, and vocalizing.
May increase confidence
Because music brings an element of fun and freedom to speech therapy and encourages patient participation, it may increase confidence and allow the patient to attempt communication more freely.
May improve overall cognition
Our brains have to do a lot of work to make sense of music. Even if we aren’t music buffs, listening to a song requires us to analyze the relationships between notes that form a melody, and the rhythms that guide us to sing along. Music lights up our brains and has been shown to improve mood and memory.
Ways to use music in speech therapy
Singing part of a song tends to prompt a child to sing as well. If the clinician sings “Old McDonald Had a Farm, E-I-E-I…” and pauses, the child may feel encouraged to sing the “O!”
Parents can also incorporate singing-based exercises into a child’s life at home to help in the development of communication skills. Singing songs throughout the day that encourage kids to participate and sing along can help to build language skills and other cognitive skills. This can also include gestural communication. For example, singing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” can help children learn about communicating feelings through gestures.
Of course, music in speech therapy isn’t just useful for children. It can be helpful for adults overcoming conditions such as a stroke or TBI. According to the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, “Music therapists use musical vocalization to help retrain an individual to speak. Music can facilitate speech because it uses areas of the brain that are involved in communication.”
The human brain often responds to music more strongly than to other forms of communication. Incorporating music into speech therapy can help patients develop their language skills, have fun, and gain confidence in their ability to communicate. SLPs and caregivers can both incorporate music into a patient’s life to enhance their treatment.