I’ve been admittedly slack about blogging lately. I’ll confess that I’ve been caught up in reading other people’s blog posts!
It’s no mystery to anyone who spends any amount of time with me that my primary instrument in school was voice. I am constantly singing or humming (much to my husband’s annoyance) any number of random songs. As a potential result of my love of the voice as an instrument, a favorite area of mine to address is speech!
When I talk to people about music therapy and speech, I find that I get a lot of surprised faces, so I am going to outline four reasons as why music therapy works in developing, maintaining, and rehabilitating speech.
1. Everyone loves music
I believe that you will find this at the top of every list ever made explaining how music therapy can benefit a group of people. It’s there for a good reason, too! We are wired to respond to music. Our bodies operations are dependent upon the ability to maintain rhythm. The beat of the heart, the intake of breath, the pace at which we move, the blink of our eyes. All of it has a musical basis!
2. Singing is easier than speaking
I know that a lot of people just shook their head no to this, but it’s true. When singing, the brain utilizes areas in both hemispheres of the brain, whereas in speaking, only the left hemisphere (and a very small portion at that!) is utilized. The usage of both sides of the brain in singing enables connections to be made that allow speech to occur even in incidences of trauma to the brain.
3. Music and Memory
I took Spanish in high school. Other than a few basic questions and answers, I do not remember much of it. However, if you ask me to recite the Spanish alphabet or the countries and their capitols of all Spanish speaking countries, it comes out before I realize what I am doing. When we learn through music, the information stays with us a lot longer. Practicing your plosives and liquids etc with a song is much more enjoyable and memorable than recitation alone. Later this month I hope to post a song I wrote for this purpose.
4. Music contains inflection
I’ve been reading lately about human ‘calls’, as well as inflection in speech (prosody). It’s fascinating and I could write an entire post about it. I’ve found several parents of children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome have difficulty when they use non-literal expressions (i.e. it’s raining cats and dogs) or sarcasm around their children. The meaning of the expression lies in the inflection (think the gentle upturn in pitch at the end of a sentence, the roll of the eyes and deadpan voice) and their children are not able to detect these changes. Music and melody use the same prosodic tools that we use in speech to communicate ideas and (in my experience thus far) appear to be more accessible for persons with receptive communication deficits.