Is music a useful tool in speech therapy when working with children with ASD? Yes, when using other valuable treatment methods in addition. Music can be used to help establish joint attention, learn words, take turns, imitate, follow-directions, and ask and answer questions. It is a stimulant therefore it helps enhance memory which leads to an increase in attention and alertness. This is extremely valuable when teaching new concepts to children! Read more about it in the links below.
A cognitive scientist, Mark Seidenberg, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison found that only a third of the nation’s schoolchildren read at grade level. He cites that the way children are taught to read is disconnected from how language and speech actually develop in a child’s brain. The current research shows that reading success depends on linking print to speech. Skilled reading is associated with children’s spoken language, grammar and the vocabulary they already know. Seidenberg claims that the basic science (of reading) does not go into the preparation for teachers and argues that literacy is not an “either/or” of phonics and whole language. He claims that children need both.
Researchers from the University of Washington recently conducted a 5-year longitudinal study of 241 families to study home literacy and its impacts. The participants included a group of first- to fifth graders and a group of third- to seventh graders. The study found that children with higher reading and writing achievement at school engaged in more reading and writing activities at home. Parental rating scales also indicated that children’s ability to self-regulate attention spans remained consistent throughout the study, however, executive functioning skills including goal-setting, often improved.
Wilson Reading System is a research-based, systematic, multi-sensory reading program designed to improve the five areas of reading including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. It is a 12-step program, with the first 6-steps teaching consistent foundational patterns, and the later 6-steps teaching more complex concepts. Letter-sound knowledge is taught systematically and paired with a multisensory approach as it is the building blocks for reading and writing. The multi-sensory approach is shown to activate more neurons during language learning and improve the chances that it becomes stored in long-term memory. The program is for students in grades 2-12 who have word-level deficits and poor sound/symbol systems for both reading and spelling. This program is appropriate for students with language-based learning disabilities, labored readers, students who know words by sight but have difficulty reading non-sense syllables, and students who speak and understand English but cannot read or write it. Wilson is frequently taught in schools in a group setting, pull-out services or through private reading tutors who are Wilson certified.
In speech therapy, Wilson concepts can be useful to many of our students who have poor phonological awareness and have difficulty learning to read. Using a multi-sensory approach to learning gives our students more than one pathway to retain and learn the information as they may struggle with the auditory channel alone.
According to recent research done at The University of California, Los Angeles, school-aged girls with high-functioning autism may be better at interacting and blending in with peers than boys with high-functioning autism. Research suggests this may be due to ‘social camouflaging’ or the ability to blend in with peers despite the fact that they may not necessarily be connecting or creating friendships. Differences between the genders play a large role in this study, with boys tending to be more isolated and having more repetitive behaviors and fixations which drive them away from socializing, while girls tended to more quiet and stayed closer to groups. The girls fixations are also perceived as more socially acceptable than those of their male counterparts. Preliminary results do suggest that there are differences in the brains of girls and boys with autism. Imaging shows that girls with autism have less disruption in the area of the brain that processes social information. These differences often lead to later diagnoses of the disorder in girls.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have recently conducted a study examining the affects of background noise such as TV, radio, and people talking on early language learning in toddlers. Three studies were performed overall, with the first two only differing in the age ranges among participants. The first two experiments examined the toddlers’ abilities to recognize unfamiliar objects that were labeled after they were presented sentences containing the novel words. They concluded that only the children who were given the sentence in a quiet environment were able to learn the novel words. In the third and final experiment, the toddlers were read aloud a sentence containing two new words without background noise. They were then exposed to the same background noise as the first two experiments and taught object-pairings for the first set of words and then were provided with two additional words. They found that the children only learned the words that were given in a quiet environment. Researcher and co-author, Jenny Saffran states “Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words correspond to may help very young children master new vocabulary, but when the environment in noisy, drawing young children’s attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate.”