Healing Through Music and the Power of Song to Promote Recovery of Language Function

The Power of Music

As discussed in the article shared from Harvard earlier this week, music has positive medical benefits for depression and anxiety related to invasive procedures; reduces side effects of cancer therapy; helps with pain relief; and improves quality of life for people suffering from dementia. What’s more, music can help to restore lost speech. These are some of the many ways people experience healing through music.

The Harvard U article indicated that “…music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody…”

Healing Through Music in Speech Therapy

Melodic Intonation therapy was developed by Robert Sparks in Boston at MIT. This approach takes advantage of the brains right-sided processing of music to tap into remaining strengths following left-sided brain damage. By using song in sessions, therapists are able to bring out words and phrases that were otherwise “lost”. Helping clients to find these lost words and phrases is empowering! This approach was designed to help with aphasia – a disorder of language function.

Many clients who have arrived to their session depressed have left with big smiles on their faces after singing and getting words out through song. They appear to experience healing through music before my eyes. For some, this was the first time that they produced entire sentences. The sense of hope, progress and well-being should be measured, just like other therapeutic outcomes as these outcomes are equally important.

Healing Through Music for Clients with Speech Difficulties

Many clients with speech disorders (e.g. from stroke, ABI, or progressive conditions like MS or Parkinson’s Disease) have trouble changing their pitch when speaking which results in a flat monotone voice. This makes it hard to interpret the meaning of what they are saying (e.g. is he or she being sarcastic?) In my experience, use of song has provided a way to increase the range of pitches used in speech and has made the person’s meaning more recognizable. This is yet another way client’s experience healing through music.

Do you know anyone that has benefitted from musical approaches within speech therapy? We would love to hear your story.

BobiTychynskiShimoda-220Bobi Tychynski Shimoda is a Speech-Language Pathologist with more than a decade of experience working with neurological communication and swallowing disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings including inpatient rehab, acute care, community, and private practise. She is highly skilled in assessment, and innovative treatment approaches.

Singing and Language: How to help build language at home through song


As a speech-language pathologist working with toddlers and children who have speech and language delays, I am constantly looking for one more tool that will help children develop their language and communication skills while having fun at the same time.  I have found that singing and language are a perfect pair! I have seen how well children respond to singing and how their vocabulary and language grow through song.  Singing and language development are even supported in research. It shows that signing songs with babies and toddlers enhances vocabulary, language development and helps develop literacy skills.

Whether a child is developing typically or showing delays, music can be used at any age to enhance speech and language skills. It doesn’t matter to your child if you can’t sing well as your baby will enjoy your singing and develop his language skills at the same time. You can use singing and language anywhere and anytime, building singing into all of your daily routines.


Any time is a good time to add singing and language into your daily routine with your baby or toddler. Take advantage of daily routines as daily routines happen regularly and can provide many opportunities for your child to hear the lyrics in the songs and see the actions over and over again.

Examples of daily routines are bath time, mealtime, getting dressed, getting in the car, cleaning up toys, etc.  Using singing and language during routines can also make a less desirable routine more enjoyable for babies/toddlers.


Here are some great tips for using singing and language with your child:

  • FACE YOUR CHILD – Whenever possible try to sit face to face with your child. This makes it easier for your child to make eye contact with you and see your facial expressions, words and actions in the songs.
  • SLOW DOWN – Your child will have an easier time learning the words and copying the actions when you take your time and slow down.
  • REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! – Sing the song over and over again with your child. This will help him learn new words while having fun at the same time. The repetition will help him to understand the meaning of the words.  Children love hearing songs over and over again.
  • PARTICIPATION – Make sure you have your baby participate – This will depend on your child’s age and stage of development. It can be as simple as eye contact, a facial expression, a sound, banging on a drum, filling in with a word and/or copying the actions.
  • PAUSE AND WAIT to give him the opportunity to participate in a predicable language routine. To help your child know when to take his turn in the song you can pause and wait during certain parts of the song. When singing with babies/toddlers, I like to pause at the end of the line of music. You can pause before you say the last word and see if they fill it in. For example, when singing “The Wheels on the Bus” you can pause before saying “town” and see if they fill in the word. I like to look expectantly and lean in while I am waiting so they know it is their turn to fill in that part of the song. If I have waited for 5-6 seconds and they have not filled it in I will fill it in for them and try again the next time. They may start to copy an action in the song before they fill in a word such as actions for “round and round”, “beep beep” and “up and down” during the “Wheels on the bus” song.


  • Keep it simple and choose songs that are repetitive
  • When singing, be sure to pick songs with actions or make up some simple actions that go along with the song
  • Make up songs that involve your child’s interests or that you can sing during your daily routines
  • Put new or important words at the end of the lines in the song – this will make these words stand out, and make it easier for your child to try to sing these words
  • Be sure you let your child participate through eye contact, facial expressions, actions, sounds or word approximations and words
  • Most importantly HAVE FUN!


  • Body parts – Head Shoulders, Knees and Toes, If you are Happy and you Know it, Where is Thumbkin
  • Animals – Going on a  bear hunt, Old McDonald, Down by the Bay, Farmer in the Dell
  • CountingFive little Ducks, Five Green and Speckled Frogs, Ants go Marching, Five Little Monkeys

Did you know? We offer a music group aimed at promoting language skills for 2-3 and 3-4 year olds! Click here to find out more about our Speech Melodies program!

CarrieWebCarrie Rosler is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist who has been practicing pediatric speech pathology for over 14 years. Carrie is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment. Carrie has a special interest in Motor Speech Disorders and Auditory Verbal Therapy.

Speech Melodies Music Program is a Success!

“Yee-Haw!” shouts Matthew. “Go,” signs Jenny.  Jessica choses the bells over the shaker eggs. These are all communication skills that some of the children have shown in our new Speech Melodies music program.

Recently, we created a new partnership with Suzie Sunshine and launched, “Speech Melodies,” an interactive, therapeutic music program leading the way to better communication.

The Speech Melodies music program was such a success for the children in our group that I just couldn’t wait to share how the group gave these children the chance to sing, dance, play, laugh, drum and communicate with each other. Miss Suzie and I always have sore cheeks from smiling and seeing these children beam with such joy once the music gets started. Some of the kids sit in the circle and immediately begin tapping their legs creating a beat to the anticipated ‘Hello Song’, which sings the name of every child in the group.

We were thrilled to see how one child grew to interact, sit on the carpet, take turns with peers, verbally request an item, strum the ukulele, tap the xylophone, create a beat on a drum and fill in words or a gesture to a song.  The child’s skills got better each week making this child now an active participant in the group. What an accomplishment for this little kiddo.

What is the Speech Melodies music program?

The Speech Melodies music program is run by a Speech Language Pathologist and an Early Childhood Music Educator, Suzie Sunshine.  Each group is designed to have a maximum of 5 children. Children with communication challenges will benefit from the small group setting to express themselves to peers in a supported and engaging environment.  While these children are practicing and developing their communication skills, the group also provides them an opportunity to work on their movement and coordination, listening awareness, social interaction and overall communication confidence. Each group is designed with specific speech and language goals. For example, in one group, similar aged children are all working on early communication language skills, whereas another group has been designed to work on the children’s clarity of speech. The Speech Melodies music program is designed to switch between music, song, instruments, and language activities specific to the group’s speech and language targets.

Why the Speech Melodies music program was created

The Speech Melodies music program was created after a few Speech Language Pathologists were talking about how much we sing in our sessions to help develop communication skills.  For some children on my caseload, I was able to get at least 50% more cooperation if I was singing. And little did these children realize, they were interacting and communicating with me while having fun. I started singing in my sessions to demonstrate a strategy I always suggest to parents to encourage vocal productions and words or gestures through any song with actions (e.g. Itsy Bitsy Spider). Pausing and allowing the child to fill in either the gesture or word within the song allows the child a chance to participate in a predictable language routine. I am sure these kids are also proud to show their parents that they can sing too!  From Miss Suzie’s experience, the gift of music gives the children a chance to imitate and echo words or rhythm patterns which improves social interaction, attention and listening awareness. Merging the joy of teaching speech and language skills and music, only made sense to everyone here at S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks and Suzie Sunshine.

To find out if your child would benefit from the Speech Melodies music program or to find out how to register for a group, contact us today!

TeriLynam-220Teri Lynam is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist with ten years of experience working in the field of communication disorders. She has a special interest in early language, literacy development, acquired brain injury, motor speech and resonance disorders. Teri is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment.