Speech therapy without words

Squid doesn’t talk; her brother doesn’t listen. I suspect they are showing sides of the same traits – somehow those brain connections that register words seem to form more slowly and be more fragile than the average.

I found an interesting article by Nina Kraus In Nature Neuroscience Reviews studying the effect of music training on listening skills. There is a logical link that the authors describe: “At the acoustic level, music and speech use pitch, timing and timbre cues to convey information. At a cognitive level, music and speech processing require similar memory and attention skills.”.  They substantiate it with convincing arguments about how longterm focussed music training changes the structure of the brain and its responsiveness to sounds.

A paragraph that I found to be particularly relevant for us was the claim that music training improved the ability to discriminate speech in a noisy environment. The argument is that musicians are trained to be tuned into discriminating accurately between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ parts of their soundscape. So the skill for the conductor to hear one dud note in an orchestra is closely related to the skill of picking out the words of your friends against the background regular drone of a party.

The context of the article seems to mainly be classical music training. The same principles should apply to any focused musical development including singing and guitar. The results were much better if music training began before the age of seven and sustained over a long time in a focussed way.

Squids do music lessons. One benefit I’ve seen for sure is the verbal-lite social activity of sharing music with others. I’m thinking of the big kids in the orchestra – but I’m also remembering little Squid in her first year at school. Stuck for words and struggling to engage; dancing, twirling and bubbling as soon as the music came on.

Miaow, miaow – I’m a cow

Miaow, miaow – I’m a cow // Miaow, miaow- I’m a cow // NOOOO
Beep, beep – I’m a sheep //Beep, beep – I’m a sheep // YEAHHH
Long car trip sing-a-long for Squid (helpful YouTube inspiration from eldest child). Animal noises, easy lyrics and belly laughs. 

Brilliant

Free Printable Flip Up Pronoun Speech Cards

Today Squid is poorly home from school, and Mum is low on inspiration, so we will be working though some activities gleaned from the Internet.
I found these beautiful free printables on pronouns. The link explains them, but I had to go to ‘teachers pay teachers’ to download it (for free). I hope she loves them as much as I think she will!

I was enthusiastic enough about them to laminate them. Junior’s reading is not sufficiently advanced to mention the whole sentence, so I cued her in with questions: Q“Who is reading? ” A “She is” or “She is reading” (led by how confident Junior was with the rest of the sentence).

The genius is folding up the bottom of the cards so the answer was on the back. She was shameless about ‘cheating’ – but it really reduced her anxiety. It also passed the ‘distracted facilitator’ test – I had to leave the room and on my return she’d carried on working with the cards.

Source: Free Printable Flip Up Pronoun Speech Cards

Words wanted; will pay biscuits 

My speech therapist advises Hanen inspired approaches which involve a lot of pregnant pauses to give your child the opportunity to speak, without ever pressuring them. My mother-in-law, however, won’t hand over biscuits without a credible attempt to request it politely.
A standoff. Subliminal calculation of grandmotherly intransigence versus grandmotherly generosity. Then she acquiesces. She really tries.
Then, with crumbs still spilling out of her mouth, she is back asking for another one. She doesn’t ask me – she knows I only pay in apple slices.

I see the past 

I see the little boy who would get so angry that he wouldn’t be understood – but I need to blink him away. The real boy is up on stage projecting his voice so that the whole hall can hear him.

I see the little boy who would be too shy to socialise – but he’s grown. He’s leaving pauses in the speech so that the audience can laugh. A confident, perfectly timed arched eyebrow knowing he’ll get a response.

We’ve worked with him for over 8 years on his speech. While I was worrying about each little milestone, I didn’t realise that underneath it all we were growing a confident communicator.

He still has a lisp. Not all his sounds are consistent. But I’m the only one that hears that now. Everyone else saw the young thespian loving every moment on stage.

I need to make an effort to see that too. I remember the little boy – but I see the big boy too – and I will take a moment to be so proud of all of us for leveraging a weakness into a talent.

This week I have done no speech work with my child. 

I set myself a target of blogging once a week – but this week I have nothing to say about speech. Speech has been pushed out by her brother’s school play, her parent’s evening at school, volunteering at school, looking after ill kids, visiting ill friends, entertaining guests, pretending to clean, bad lifestyle choices, dealing with a kid having a major wobble and failing to pack for our holidays.
She has: had giggles with her sister; worn a new dress; watched a movie; played Nintendogs; spent an entire day pretending to be a dog; made some beautiful pictures; been sick on the carpet; decorated 12 cupcakes; and, entertained a special little friend beautifully. Not all on the same day.

Life happens. But next week we’ll try to do more speech.