It was once thought that children with cochlear implants would not be able to appreciate music, but that belief has shifted to show that, instead, music can be a powerful tool in teaching Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) to children with hearing loss. “When music and song are not made available to them, the experience of children who are deaf or hard of hearing is unnecessarily restricted,” says Daniel Ling, an Auditory-Verbal Therapy pioneer.
“Singing with infants and toddlers is a very natural and developmentally appropriate way to develop listening skills,” says Michelle Parfitt, DePaul’s Speech and Auditory-Verbal Therapy Coordinator.
“Listening to and imitating different beats helps to improve auditory attention and ability to remember auditory patterns. These are important skills for the development of higher level auditory comprehension and speech production skills. Most of all, music and singing is fun. Children are easily engaged in musical activities, so parents and other caregivers can include these activities in their everyday routines. The children will learn important Listening and Spoken Language skills and have a great time doing it,” she adds.
Music helps students with hearing loss to more easily remember the speech patterns, pronunciation and rhythm necessary to speak with a natural sounding voice. Through music, children learn to be attentive listeners, which is a skill that helps their phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and overall fluency. When teachers use music naturally, they expand vocabulary, promote sight words, identify rhymes and retell stories.
For Elementary School students, teachers use songs that incorporate sight words that the students are learning. Sight words are some of the most commonly used words in the English language, for example: the, a, is, of, to, in, and, I, you and that. Most sight words are not easily represented by a picture, so readers must learn to recognize them by sight alone. The students practice reading their sight words while singing the songs, thereby strengthening their reading skills. Being able to recall the tune of the songs helps students read the words with the correct rhythm and intonation.
Music is also a key component of speech therapy. DePaul School’s Speech-Language Pathologists incorporate songs during therapy sessions to encourage the development of natural-sounding speech. “As the rich durational and intonational patterns of singing grab and keep the students’ attention, they also help to develop their ability to produce a natural sounding voice. The repetition of songs fosters auditory memory skills and vocabulary development. Repetition also facilitates speech production practice which can result in clearer articulation,” says Ms. Parfitt.