Language Development and Music
There is growing awareness amongst health and educational professionals regarding the benefits that music has on children's development, including language skills.
Speech-language pathologists and music therapists worldwide are identifying and harnessing the connection between music and language skills. By utilising music it’s recognised that language development can be supported and improved.
Why is Music Effective for Assisting Language Development?
- Music has structure and rules (as does language)
- Music ensures that the words are sequenced in a predictable order
- Music offers a fun opportunity to learn new words and concepts through repetition (an important factor when helping to improve a child’s language skills)
- Music encourages turn-taking behaviours (just like in conversation)
- Music has rhythm (enabling actions to be combined with words to reinforce word meanings
- Music has rhyme (encouraging children to become aware of words and their sounds, which also assists with developing their literacy skills)
- Music assists children to remember new words (particularly once the child has learnt the tune)
- Music helps attention and listening skills
- Music and movement assists physical development and coordination skills
- Music motivates children to socialise, assisting emotional development
- Musical involvement is known to enhance self-esteem and confidence
Who Can Benefit?
All children benefit from using music to aid language development. Nursery rhymes, singing and dancing are an essential part of childhood learning, as Ros Bayley, a BBC Educational Consultant, Trainer and Storyteller explains in her article on music and language. For children who have difficulty communicating, whether due to a language delay, a language disorder, a syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury, trauma or bereavement, the benefits of music can be profound.
Who Uses Music to Assist Language Development?
The best results are achieved when speech-language pathologists and music therapists are able to work together with clients, however, due to both professions being highly sort-after specialists, this may not always be possible. An alternative is when speech-language pathologists possess suitable musical skills (a rare but unique combination) or music therapists are able to offer specialist skills in speech/language development (such as Soundaffects Music Therapy). Therapists encourage the involvement of teachers and families in sessions.
How is Music Used to Assist Language Development?
Therapists may work one-on-one with a child, in small groups or larger classes. Children aren’t required to have any musical abilities (that’s the role of the creative therapist). Goals are tailored to suit the individual or group and activities are fun and flexible. Music can allow therapists (and family and teachers) to engage or communicate with a child when words alone will not.
As therapists become more aware of the benefits of music in improving language skills, and research continues to highlight this, they are seeking out partnerships with other professionals whose skills complement their own. This will ultimately ensure that children have the best chance of developing good language and communication skills.