Could Music Therapy be the next big thing?
We all listen to and enjoy music on a daily basis. Whether it’s listening to your iPod on the train, dancing along to songs on the radio station, or relaxing to some soft tunes at home, music plays a big role in our lives. But have you ever considered if music could be used as a therapeutic treatment method for problems with speech? Researchers in Germany were interested in whether young children with delayed speech development could benefit from music therapy; specifically in their verbal reasoning abilities and ability to understand and communicate efficiently with other people.
About the Study
Eighteen between the ages of 3.5 to 6 years participated in this study. All of the participants had developmental delays that affected how they spoke and understood speech. Past research has shown delayed speech development could lead to difficulties in reading, writing and social interactions in children as they grow older.
Over a course of two years, participants alternated between eight weeks of music therapy and eight weeks without any treatment. Different tests were used before and after each period to assess the level of speech development for each child.
What is music therapy, anyway?
Music therapy is considered to be a form of art therapy, where participants are encouraged to listen, play and/or sing along to music during therapy sessions. It is thought that music therapy could provide practice in listening and memorizing different musical sounds, which could in turn be used towards the production and understanding of speech sounds.
In this specific experiment, children were provided with several types of percussion instruments and participated in making music with the therapist. Improvised music, as well as songs that focused on individual interests of the child (i.e. animals) were performed.
Could music therapy really help?
The study found that the children did make progress in speech development after their music therapy periods. Improvements included a better understanding of speech, better memory of different speech sounds and even a higher level of intelligence! Parents, teachers and the therapists involved in this study also reported that the children showed significant improvements in communication skills and other social interactions. Although it is a relatively new field of research, music therapy may be able to become a leading form of therapy for children with delayed speech development in the future.
Written by: Michelle Dolnaya, head researcher at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services
Groß, W., Linden, U., Ostermann, T. (2010). Effects of music therapy in the treatment of children with delayed speech development-results of a pilot study. BioMed Central Complementary & Alternative Medicine.10, 39.