“Bu, pu, cu”. These are speech sounds used to say the words, “bat, pat and cat”. Some children’s brains, unfortunately, do not interpret speech sounds correctly. During a conversation they might misunderstand what is said or look clueless when asked a question, because they don’t catch all of the words.
Hearing speech sounds accurately is an important skill for reading. In order to learn to read, the brain needs to be able to distinguish the differences in letter sounds and similar sounding syllables. Correctly hearing differences in sounds is an aspect of auditory processing.
Children who process speech poorly often read poorly. In higher numbers than average, poor readers suffer from low self esteem, fall behind their peers in school and fail to graduate. Is there a way to help children’s brains process sound better and improve their reading?
Nina Kraus, a professor at Northwestern University, placed electrodes on the scalps of children to measure the differences in those who actively participated in making music and those who did not. She found that children and teens who sang in chorus or played an instrument for two years showed greater improvements in reading scores. Also, there was better encoding of speech in their brain (the way their brain processed speech) than students who were not active in music.
Dr. Deborah Ross-Swain, a speech-language pathologist, studied the effects of the Tomatis Method, which she uses in her practice, on the improvement of auditory processing. The method consists of clients listening to particular musical frequencies or pitches within classical music. Her study, which included 41 clients ages 4 to 19, demonstrated improvements in auditory discrimination of sounds and words, auditory memory and the interpretation of directions. Her study showed a remarkable 49.9% improvement in auditory processing overall after only 90 hours (45 sessions) of listening.
Finally, Hope Charter School in Ocoee, Florida, combined listening to specific musical frequencies with visual-motor activities to study improvements in reading. The average gain in reading ability was 2.2 years after the 4-month program.
Taken together these studies seem to provide evidence that music can have a profound effect on the performance of the brain. Certain music experiences may hold the promise of helping children with reading or auditory processing difficulties to make gains in their skills.
Diane Daniels, Director of Brain Works, offers auditory training with modified musical frequencies to improve auditory processing, attention span, sensory processing and visual-motor skills.
Call for a free consultation today at (352) 332-2420.