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Enhance Speech Therapy - A Recorder In The Recorder: Chock Full of Therapeutic Benefits, Developmental Musician, Orly Zalel provided professional insight on the multitude of benefits of using the recorder, a simple musical instrument.  In this article, you will discover how to enhance speech therapy by using a recorder.

Karen Head, MS, CCC-SLP,  a speech-language pathologist and co-developer of a series of apps designed to support children with social learning challenges, shares her professional insight as to the therapeutic benefits of playing a recorder.  Head encourages the use of a recorder during speech and language therapy sessions.

Enhance Speech Therapy with a Recorder

The recorder can be used in a number of ways to enhance a speech and language therapy session. Head provides the following suggestions:

Oral-Motor Function

Enhance speech therapy by playing a recorder to support jaw stabilization. A stable jaw is critical for the clear production of /s/ and /r/ as well as for overall clarity of speech. The way that a child holds a recorder in her mouth promotes this stable jaw position.

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Respiration & Breath Control

Many children who experience difficulties with breath control also struggle with speech production. Pauses during speech carry communicative intent and when a child pauses or takes a breath at an unexpected point in a sentence, it can confuse or distract the listener. Enhance speech therapy by playing an instrument like the recorder.  It is a motivating way to help a child gain better respiratory control.

Rhythm of Speech

Enhance speech therapy by practicing a variety of rhythms while playing an instrument such as the recorder. It is a wonderful way to teach the rhythm of speech.

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Improve Volume Control

As children become better able to control their breath, they also become better able to control their volume. When children don’t have good control of their breath, it is difficult for them to follow cues such as, ‘use your inside voice’ or ‘speak up, it is loud in here.’ Enhance speech therapy by using the recorder to experiment with producing graded volume.  It is a fun and motivating way to teach these concepts.

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Understand Pitch Differences

Conversational speech has many musical properties. Pitch is an important one. When we ask a question, the pitch rises at the end. When we are making a serious point, we use a lower pitch, and so on. Playing the recorder while reading music gives children the opportunity to see that the higher up on the scale the notes are, the higher in pitch they are. Pairing the recorder with humming or singing the intonation of various sentences, questions or statements can help this difficult concept become more concrete.

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Expand Auditory Memory

Learning to play music first by reading the notes and then by memory helps expand a child’s memory abilities. None of us could remember 26 random letters, but we all learn the alphabet quite early because it is taught along with a tune. The recorder is an excellent instrument for children to practice remembering longer and longer pieces.

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Teach Reciprocal Interaction

Social interactions have a rhythm which is not always obvious to some children. Using the recorder to teach reciprocity is a wonderful medium because there is no content for the child to become fixated on. Playing along with an adult and ‘matching’ the length of each person’s tune can help children see that during a conversation, each party takes a brief turn and then pauses to listen to the other person.

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Develop Matching Affect Skills

Another important social skill is being able to match one’s own affect to that of the conversational partner. If a friend begins to tell us a sad story, it is not appropriate for us to respond cheerily.  Playing the recorder with an adult and ‘matching’ the feeling of the music can be a fun way of practicing this critical social skill.

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Start with Familiar Music

Orly Zalel, developmental musician, provides some final insight on playing the recorder.

“The beginning of recorder play is mostly formed from short simple tunes or familiar nursery rhymes.  It is mainly from the child’s own experimental improvisations. Later, this will expand into a larger and richer repertoire that will individually suit the child’s musical preferences. The progress can be smooth and quick to such an extent that school age kids who start to play the recorder today could easily play a complete tune in just a few short months.

Jingle Bells is a familiar tune to all children.  Below is a video teaching how to play Jingle Bells on the recorder.

Encouragement is Key

Zalel wraps up by sharing, “Parents need to be aware that all children need support and encouragement at every step of their musical growth.  It can be advantageous for a parent to sit in on playing. However, while sitting in, we should never show signs of annoyance or impatience. As the parents’ response has crucial influence on the children’s playing development, we need to respond to what we hear positively and with lots of respect, giving them the feeling that they are doing great and that we love it as it is.

“No worries! Even if it doesn’t sound ‘good’ now, gradually it will get better and better. The best thing we can offer to our own young musicians is to listen to their playing in a supportive and relaxed manner.”

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An "Ism" is our coined term synonymous with a “challenge”. Many children, with or without a diagnostic label, experience various challenges throughout their developmental years which are impacting them in the classroom and at home. At Special-Ism, the Ism is our focus. We do not look at the diagnostic label, instead, we look at the Isms and offer solutions no matter the diagnosis.