Speech and Song: Clinical applications of Music Therapy with aphasic patients
Samuel S. developed severe expressive aphasia following a stroke in his late sixties, and he remained totally speechless, unable to retrieve a single word, despite intensive speech therapy, two years later. The break for him came when Connie Tomaino, the music therapist at our hospital, heard him singing one day outside her clinic – he was singing ‘Ol’ Man River’ very tunefully and with great feeling, but only getting two or three words of the song. Even though speech therapy had been given up with Samuel, who was by then regarded as ‘hopeless’, Connie felt that music therapy might be helpful. She started to meet him three times a week for half hour sessions in which she would sing with him or accompany him on the accordion. Mr. S. was soon able, singing along with Connie, to get all the words of ‘Ol’ Man River’, and then of many other ballads and songs he had learnt growing up in the 1940s – and as he did this, he started to show the beginnings of speech. Within two months, he was making short but appropriate responses to questions. For instance, if one of us asked Mr. S. about his weekends at home, he could reply, ‘Had a great time’, or ‘Saw the kids’.
Excerpt from the book ‘Musicophilia; Tales of Music and the Brain’ by Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology at New York University School of Medicine.