Music Perception in Young Children with SLI

Sallet and Jentschke (2015) studied the relationship between language acquisition and music perception in children with specific language impairments (SLI). While this topic has been studied many times before, Sallet and Jentschke explored a much younger age than has previously been studied (four- and five-year-olds).

Twenty-nine children with SLI were recruited from a local kindergarten in Germany. Additional
recruitments were made from other schools to create two control groups. One group controlled for comparable age while the other controlled for comparable language skills. Each participant attended four to five screening sessions of 20 to 25 minutes. The researchers used a multitude of screenings before starting the sessions, these included a language screening, nonverbal intelligence, linguistic skills, phonemic discrimination, and nonverbal intelligence.

A variety of melodic skills were explored during the sessions, including melodic perception, rhythmic-melodic perception, and melody recognition. As predicted by the researchers,
children with SLI scored significantly lower on the musical tasks than those in the control

Due to an unequal variance in the three groups of data the researchers used nonparametric testing to compare the results. Results indicated multiple relationships between the musical skills tested and the scores on the screenings, administered at the beginning of the sessions. This study is interesting for a couple reasons. The results show that language acquisition deficits can be assessed at a younger age.

Due to the discovery of the lack of specific types of music perception in children with SLI, a music therapist should be aware of these deficits when working with these individuals. Since both music and language are both acoustically based, the findings in this study present information that could produce further studies on the effect of music on young children with SLI.

Sallet, S. & Jentschke, S. (2015). Music perception influences language acquisition: Melodic and rhythmic-melodic perception in children with specific language impairment. Behavioral Neurology. doi: 10.1155/2015/606470. PMID: 26508812