It’s summertime, so how about trying something fun and different with your child, but still with therapeutic benefit. In A Basic Musical Instrumental Provides Many Benefits, Part 1, Orly Zalel provided her professional insights as a music educator about using the recorder and its potential benefits to children. In this second part of the article, a speech therapist expands upon using a recorder for therapeutic benefits.
Using a Recorder During Therapy
The recorder can be used in a number of ways to enhance a therapy session. Karen provided the following suggestions:
- “Oral-Motor Function. Playing a recorder can help with 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.
- “Respiration and 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. Playing an instrument like the recorder is a motivating way to help a child gain better respiratory control.
- “Rhythm. Practicing a variety of rhythms while playing an instrument such as the recorder is a wonderful way to teach the rhythm of speech.
- “Improvement of 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.’ Using the recorder to experiment with producing graded volume is a fun and motivating way to teach these concepts.
- “Understanding of 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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “Matching Affect. 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.”
Orly Zalel is a developmental musician, music teacher, post-natal specialist and the creator of the Musical Baby Bonding program. She provides some final insights on playing the recorder.
What Music to Play
“The beginning of playing the recorder is mostly formed from short simple tunes or familiar nursery rhymes and mainly from the children’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 Jingle Bells by Christmas.”
“Parents need to be aware that all children need support and encouragement at every step of their musical growth and it can be advantageous for a parent to sit in. 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.”