Language is a construct that allows people to communicate by representing objects and ideas in the form of words (Call, 1980). Primarily, language is used to communicate through written text and spoken words. The ability to communicate verbally is an important form of human interaction and development. When a speaker cannot be easily understood due to delayed speech development or impairment, it is more likely that he could develop communication skills more slowly than his peers (Call, 1980).
Language acquisition begins from birth through informal interactions and is intentionally further developed in school settings. Classroom teachers teach the English language as part of a core curriculum. When a student is identified with a developmental delay or impairment in his/her verbal communication, a speech-language pathologist assesses skills, then develops goals and provides intervention. This model recognizes the need for an additional mode of assistance that provides special emphasis on phonological awareness. Therefore, it seems imperative that schools ensure students can use verbal as well written communication skills.
While reports of underfunding and downsizing of education across many school districts abound, speech-language pathology is a field that has shown significant growth in the last ten years – and is expected to continue growing at a faster than average rate over the next ten (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). The rise in numbers of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) indicates that a greater number of children are in need of their services. It stands to reason that – more than ever – children today are struggling with speech sound acquisition and require additional modes of support.
For many years, music teachers have pondered if music could offer assistance to students with developmental delays in the area of speech. Some researchers have studied ways in which music can influence language development (McCarthy, 1985; Mizener, 2008). However, most studies that investigated the connection between music acquisition and language acquisition investigated applications for improved fluency concurrently with phonological awareness. However, students with phonological processes deficits may not have deficits in fluency. In 2006, students with articulation/phonological disorders were encountered by more school-based SLPs than any other impairment and by 91% of school-based SLPs. (ASHA, 2006). Therefore, the present study examined phonological processes alone.
The purpose of this study was to discover techniques used by SLPs employed by public schools to improve phonological awareness and how SLPs view the incorporation of music to improve phonological awareness for students in grades K-5 identified with a speech sound disorder and no additional disability or impairment. The questions that guided the study were:
1. What techniques do speech-language pathologists use to improve phonological awareness
2. How do speech-language pathologists incorporate music to improve phonological awareness?
3. What opinions do speech-language pathologists hold about using musical techniques to improve phonological awareness?