Speech and language skills are crucial in development. A child’s communication abilities allow them to express their wants/need, develop relationships, and interact with their environment. A recent study looked at the effect of music therapy on the language skills of children with speech and language delay.
Grosz et al. (2010) investigated the effect of Nordoff-Robbins music therapy using a ABAB reversal design with 18 children between the ages of 3.5 and 6. In this research design, music therapy treatment is alternated with no treatment for blocks of time (8-weeks in this study). Music therapy interventions are described as “active”; the researchers used improvisation and songs specifically composed in accordance with the child’s interests.
Results indicated significant improvements in measures assessing phonological memory, understanding sentences, and in measures of cognition (intelligence). The researchers also report that the gap between chronological age and developmental age decreased over the course of the study.
Issues with this study include a lack of control group and small sample size. The researchers address both of these issues in their discussion. The researchers also had some attrition, where two participants dropped out after the 1st block of music therapy and two children were added after the 1st block (shown in diagram, not in text).
In the clinic: This is some initial evidence supporting the use of music therapy for language development in children for speech delay. This study focused on an improvisatory approach (based on Nordoff-Robbins) and supported the use music therapy for some speech and language skills and cognitive skills. Although this initial evidence is positive, more research is needed in this area of treatment.
Grosz W, Linden U, Ostermann T. (2010). Effects of music therapy in the treatment of children with delayed speech development – results of a pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med., 10(1), 39. PMID: 20663139