Students' lab experience aids children's communication

Hello my friends, how are you?

Hello my friends, how are you?

Hello my friends, how are you, hello, hello my friends

That welcoming melody greets each child to the Preschool Language Lab in the Waldron College of Health and Human Services (WCHHS), where two Radford University music therapy students apply what they have learned in the classroom.

Rising seniors Adaisha Cole and Lizzy Kunde each received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant to work with the Preschool Language Lab. The lab, made possible by Scottish-Rite, has been in WCHHS since 2008 and has been partnered with the Music Therapy program at Radford University since 2012.

Corey Cassidy, professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COSD) and associate dean of the WCHHS and a speech-language pathologist, partnered with Patricia Winter, associate professor of music and a board-certified music therapist at Radford University, when the collaboration began in 2012.

Lizzy Kunde, second from right, leads the children in song.

Lizzy Kunde, second from right, leads the children in song.

Learning through music

The children in the Preschool Language Lab face a variety of challenges, ranging from speech and language difficulties to autism spectrum disorders. The two music therapy students work every day with graduate and undergraduate students in COSD to enhance and improve each child’s ability to communicate or initiate communication with their peers.

“That’s really important because some of these kids - with their speech difficulties - don’t know how to approach other kids because they are afraid that they won’t be understood,” Cole said.

To combat the fear of initiating communication, the music therapy students, along with the up-and-coming speech language pathologists (SLPs), use methods that require each child to initiate conversation.

“We have a bunch of interventions that make the kids interact with each other. Any way they go about it, they have to interact – they have to pass somebody something and say ‘here you go.’ They have to say ‘thank you’ back,” Cole said. “We do things where we make them recall certain things that we just did. One thing I do is use ‘five little monkeys jumping on the bed – wait, how many monkeys did we have’ and they respond ‘five.’”

Kunde has seen an improvement in turn taking by the children. “I have a big drum where they wait their turn and have impulse control,” she said.

In the same exercise, Kunde also noticed an improvement in paying attention to others.

“It’s a new thing for kids that are at this developmental level for communication because communication and socialization go together,” Kunde said. “I’m working more as support and a way to increase socialization.”

Adaisha Cole, right, greets a child in the Preschool Language Lab.

Adaisha Cole, right, greets a child in the Preschool Language Lab.

Interprofessional collaboration enhances academic careers

The interprofessional work in which the students are participating is in addition to the regular music therapy programming at Radford and is broadening the horizons of both music therapy students.

“I’m getting to see how SLPs work and what they put their time into. It’s showing me how I should conduct my sessions - maybe have a stricter, set schedule and a stricter plan,” Cole said.

“It’s increasing the ability to collaborate with a very different field,” Kunde added. “It’s also advocating for music therapy, because these SLP students have now seen music therapy in action and are more likely to take that knowledge into the field.”

Both students noticed the openness and receptiveness by the SLP students in the COSD Department, who have been responsive to the ideas and concepts presented by Kunde and Cole.

Kunde, right, builds a block tower with a child.
Kunde, right, builds a block tower with a child.

“They have really started to see the value of music within the sessions and they’re really open to new ideas and concepts,” Kunde said. “They do a lot of prompting that is very particular to their field. I’m starting to pick up on that to potentially use in my own sessions to prompt speech and reward.”

In addition to working with SLPs for the first time, it was also Cole’s first time working with young children, who had only previously worked with clients 18 years and older. Cole said the experience is “greatly helping” her academic studies. 

Language is music

“There’s a rhythm to it,” Kunde said. “There’s a melodic line to it, so having songs that start to integrate those ideas help. Pacing and repetition also help. Music is a great motivator for language.” 

Music helps keeps language interesting for the children - a key aspect to helping them learn to initiate conversation and refine language use.

“If you make it interesting and you motivate them through music, they are more likely to listen,” Kunde said.

To help the children learn and stay energetic, Kunde and Cole leave the young children with a familiar tune each afternoon that matches the melody that greets them each morning, which sticks with them until they hear "Hello" once again.

Goodbye my friends, we’ll see you

Goodbye my friends we’ll see you

Goodbye my friends we’ll see you

Goodbye, goodbye my friends

Jun 22, 2017
Max Esterhuizen