Sunday, March 27, 2011

Songs and Rhymes – Therapy Techniques

Songs and nursery rhymes can be powerful tools for getting little ones with apraxia to verbalize. The singing activates different areas in the brain than those typically used in speech production and that often helps children successfully produce words.

I’ve been singing to my children since before they were born. I love singing. I enjoy it. I happen to like kids’ songs. What can I say? I’m an educator. So I usually sing kids’ songs to my children. I sing nursery rhymes like “Jack and Jill” and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.” I sing lullabies like, “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” and “Hush Little Baby.” I sing classic kids songs like, “Sing a Song of Sixpence” and “This Old Man.” We do preschool fingerplays like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The beautiful things about these songs are that they are predictable. They fascinate children. Rarely do I encounter a child that does not enjoy participating in a performance of kids’ songs. Ava knows almost all of these songs.

For the past few weeks I’ve been using the cloze technique (reading, or in this case singing, the first part of the sentence and then pausing to let the child fill in the next word) when singing songs with Ava and she has been filling in the missing words. So when we do, “Baa, Baa Black Sheep,” she fills in the words I’ve bolded.

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

And so in the 30-45 seconds it takes to sing this little song, she’s produced eight words. If you spend ten minutes singing songs from a nursery rhymes book (as we do every time we have an extended visit to the potty), you can get productions of 70-100 words. And they’re having fun the entire time. They don’t even know it’s therapy. You can incorporate this into reading time before nap and bedtime. You can do it any time really, just for fun. During car rides is another fun time to do this activity.

This activity isn’t about how perfect the production is. Obviously you’re not expecting to get perfect production of such a wide variety of words. It’s about making talking fun. It’s about them getting to participate in a fun verbal activity in a way they can be successful. It’s about just getting them to try. For example, Ava’s “lane” is pretty much just a long /a/ with no /l/ or /n/. But that isn’t the point. The point is the participation, attempts, and fun.

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