The effects of music therapy in children with delayed speech development: Results of a pilot study
Language development is one of the most significant processes of early childhood development. Children with delayed speech development are more at risk of acquiring other cognitive, social-emotional, and school-related problems. Music therapy appears to facilitate speech development in children, even within a short period of time. The aim of this pilot study is to explore the effects of music therapy in children with delayed speech development.
A total of 18 children aged 3.5 to 6 years with delayed speech development took part in this observational study in which music therapy and no treatment were compared to demonstrate effectiveness. Individual music therapy was provided on an outpatient basis. An ABAB reversal design with alternations between music therapy and no treatment with an interval of approximately eight weeks between the blocks was chosen. Before and after each study period, a speech development test, a non-verbal intelligence test for children, and music therapy assessment scales were used to evaluate the speech development of the children.
Compared to the baseline, we found a positive development in the study group after receiving music therapy. Both phonological capacity and the children's understanding of speech increased under treatment, as well as their cognitive structures, action patterns, and level of intelligence. Throughout the study period, developmental age converged with their biological age. Ratings according to the Nordoff-Robbins scales showed clinically significant changes in the children, namely in the areas of client-therapist relationship and communication.
This study suggests that music therapy may have a measurable effect on the speech development of children through the treatment's interactions with fundamental aspects of speech development, including the ability to form and maintain relationships and prosodic abilities. Thus, music therapy may provide a basic and supportive therapy for children with delayed speech development. Further studies should be conducted to investigate the mechanisms of these interactions in greater depth.