How Music Helps Your Child With Speech

Communicating with a child who has a speech delay can be challenging, especially when she needs something but can’t verbalize it.

Did you know that incorporating music into regular interactions might help?

Many researchers believe that music activates the entire brain, connecting the right and left hemispheres.

A study conducted in 2010 found that children who received music therapy showed an improved understanding of speech, cognitive structures, and even level of intelligence.

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Rachel Arnston, a speech-language pathologist, uses music as an essential tool to help children overcome their speech delays. In a guest post on smartspeechtherapy.com, she explains that children respond better to higher pitch and extended vowels in speech, which mimics aspects of music that are valuable to kids with speech delays.

Here are some of her tips for utilizing music at home.

  • Sing whatever your child can already say. 
    Using words she already knows will make the idea of singing along with you less intimidating and peak her interest.

  • Sing about what your child loves, or regular routines of the day.
    You may already have made a habit of this by singing the “clean up song,” but you can sing about anything! It is helpful at first to sing to a tune you know well, even if the syllables don’t fit perfectly. 

  • Sing repetitively and in chains of three. 
    Have you ever noticed how children’s songs are usually the same verse sung over and over again, usually in three’s? For example, “row, row, row your boat,” or “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.” Children are more receptive to words that have a distinct rhythm, whether in a book or a song, and singing in chains of three is a simple way to catch their attention and help them learn the words in the song.

  • My turn, your turn. Mimic the flow of a conversation. 
    Many children pick up on the back-and-forth nature of conversation without having to be taught, but this can be difficult for kids with speech delays. Start by singing a short song, or even a single verse, then say, “your turn!” Wait a few moments so your child has a chance to respond, but it’s okay if she doesn’t at first, this may take some practice. After her turn is over (whether she responds or not), tell her that it’s your turn again, and repeat the process several more times.

  • Sing slowly. “If you rush, your speech is mush.” 
    The slower you sing and the more you annunciate your words, the easier it will be for your child to start picking up on the words you’re using.

  • Put excitement in the way you sing, and pay attention to what entices your child. 
    Every child is different, so what excites one child may not interest another at all. The most important thing is your enthusiasm! Children love to imitate their parents and it is an important aspect of their learning. The more excited you are, the more interested your child will be in participating.   

  • Sing to instrumental music and/or simplify preschool favorites. 
    Sometimes even the simplest songs can be too overwhelming for children with speech delays. You can remove a couple of words or entire verses of songs your child already knows. For example, you might sing just the very first verse of “baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?” repetitively. Remember to sing slowly!

  • Use gestures while singing, but take notice of whether it encourages or inhibits singing. 
    Using big gestures might excite your child, or it could distract her from the music. Try using both large and small gestures and movements to see how she responds.

  • Put natural phrases into musical form. 
    You might become a solo opera singer when telling your child it’s time for bed, or perhaps a classy crooner when you’re driving down the street. You can choose to sing anything you say. It doesn’t matter how you decide to sing or what you decide to sing about, your child will love it if you are enthusiastic!  

It might feel a little silly to narrate your day through song at first, but it will quickly become a fun habit that will help improve your child’s ability to communicate and enhance the bond the two of you already share. Here's to a sing-songy kind of day!

For more ways to help your child's language development through music, join us at Kindermusik today: