Following the theme of making connections for Music Therapy Advocacy Month, a wonderful discovery for me occurred when I started working with a six year old girl on the autism spectrum named Emily. As part of the assessment process, her primary goal areas were identified as communication skills, perceptual-motor integration, and literacy.
In school, Emily was in a Cognitive Disabilities classroom where she was the highest functioning child regarding literacy, so they weren’t trying to teach her additional reading skills. Emily knew all her letter names and the sounds they made, but she wasn’t reading.
As I did research about teaching someone to read, it became clear that focusing on phonological awareness would develop the building blocks needed for literacy. Learning about phonological awareness was one of those great discoveries that targeted the root of the learning difficulty, rather than just treating the “problem.” I had a hunch that it would also improve Emily’s ability to focus on auditory input, which would have an impact on her communication skills—and it did!
I have since observed this connection in the literacy and communication behaviors of several children, especially those who have a visual strength and those who experienced multiple ear infections during a critical stage of their development. Stay tuned and I’ll be going further in depth about what phonological awareness is and how you can develop it through music-based strategies. What questions do you have about teaching literacy?