Music Therapy and Communication

Published by Diana Crawford on: Jul 01, 2019 — Music Therapy

Speech and communication are an essential part of development as well as letting others know what we need. This is very important for kids and can be a source of great frustration when little ones have difficulty communicating and cannot get their point across. Music Therapists can help children with communication using music and its properties.

Music is similar to speech but is processed differently in the brain. Where speech is generally processed in one area of the brain, music is processed in both sides. Music can help connect auditory and motor sections of the brain to change the rate of speech, help with speech production, train voice control, and can help with the non-verbal expression of emotions (

Here are some ideas on how to do this:

  • Going back to basics - singing familiar songs with your child is a great place to start. Singing grabs attention and engages the brain.
  • Sing questions to your child and have the little one respond by singing the answer. After a few times doing this, try increasing the answer from one to two words to an entire sentence.
  • Fill in the blank with familiar songs. People naturally want to complete a sentence or phrase.
  • For other fun ideas to try with your little one, go to:

Music has built in structure and timing. Using these elements of music can help the rate of speech. During a session, a Music Therapist may:

  • Sing a song or phrase with a child. Over time, the child will start to entrain (match) with the music. For example, if a child is speaking fast or out of sync (ie, “choppy”), with practice, the child will begin to match the tempo (rate of speed) of what is being sung.
  • Use rhythm instruments, such as a drum. In addition to saying or singing a word, a drum can be played by the child, at the same time as the singing/speaking. The Music Therapist will keep a steady beat and help the child to do the same (this is also using that idea of entrainment, or matching the music).

Music also provides a way of communicating non-verbally. During a session, a Music Therapist may:

  • Assign one instrument as “yes” and another instrument as “no.” The child is instructed to answer by playing the corresponding instrument. This can be easily done at home with instruments or things around the house.
  • Instruments can help to learn concepts with children who are non-verbal. Different color shakers can be used to learn colors, fruit and veggie shakers can be used for food, and small instruments can be used to play high/low, left/right, etc.

For other fun song ideas to use with your child, check out

Bizzy Stewardson, MA, LPC-S, MT-BC


Access music therapy: Creative arts and wellness center (n.d.). Duluth, MN. Retrieved June 15, 2019 from (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2019 from


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