When I was a much younger SLP, it seems there was more of an emphasis on developing auditory skills with our students. There was a wealth of materials on auditory discrimination skills and discriminating environmental sounds. We spent time teaching students HOW to listen and follow verbal directions explicitly, encouraging eye contact and subvocalization. My articulation therapy training in the early eighties included spending considerable time teaching students to listen for target sounds in my speech, in isolation, syllables, words, then in their own speech (Mysak's Developmental Feedback). We then would work on auditory comparing student productions with therapist productions. Who remembers the games Dig for Gold and Old Itch? Discovery Toys had a great game What's That Sound whereby students listened to sounds on a cassette tape and covered a lotto board in order to identify the sound. I still have all those games and have actually started using them again. It seems our little ones are really having a difficult time sitting still and attending and listening! Hmmmm, I wonder why? I could hypothesize on the myriad reasons (excessive television and electronic media time, little family discourse, etc.), but the bottom line is we are seeing students who struggle with verbal directions, auditory skills, social listening and more.
At the outset of our school year, our school district offered a series of in-services presented by fellow colleagues. I decided to attend a session on Music and Literacy offered by a dynamic and creative music teacher in our SAU, A.J. Coppola. A.J. uses a method of instruction referred to as the Kodály Method. Kodály was a Hungarian composer who was dismayed with the state of music education in Hungary. He felt there needed to be better teacher training, better music curricula, and an increase in the amount of time devoted to music instruction in schools, thus, the Kodály method was born. The framework of his method is solidly based in child development. Students are introduced to skills according to their developmental levels, first being introduced to more simple tasks and progressing to those that are more difficult as they master skills. It is a very linear and sequential method whereby skills are continually reviewed and reinforced through movement, games, and songs. It really sounds a lot like what we as speech-language pathologists do in therapy!
We know melody and rhythm is valuable in increasing fluency in patients with aphasia (Melodic Intonation Therapy) and can be very effective when working with students with ASD. From a speech-language perceptive, music has many applications including helping students with Central Auditory Processing difficulties detect pitch and stress differences to developing social skills through song. A.J. introduced us to several books I thought would be wonderful to utilize in therapy (the Feierabend Series publishes a book each year using folk songs and the Musicmap Series uses multicultural songs in an illustrated format.)
Songs are a wonderful way to calm anxious students and establish connections. They provide the basis for rhythm, pattern, and pitch which are basics in speech-language therapy. Listening skills are foundational to communication and classroom functioning. Auditory skills, from sound discrimination to figure-ground discrimination to perception, reception, and synthesis, are skills necessary for learning. I, for one, am going to pull out my shaker eggs and maracas, Old Itch and Listening Games books and return to some SLP roots. So grab an echo mic, learn a folk song or two and SING.