Music and singing are wonderful ways to make learning fun for any child, but for a child with hearing loss, the benefits of music are even greater. The changes in pitch and intonation in music can help children learn to experiment with their voice and articulators to develop even more natural prosody. Songs are also a large part of most preschool and kindergarten curricula, so music experiences in the home can help prepare children for experiences in the mainstream classroom.
Instruments. Children’s musical instrument toys can be great, too. Older preschoolers might like to make their own out of things they find around the house. Talk about differences between high and low, loud and soft, long and short sounds. Even older children might benefit from formal music lessons. Who knows? Maybe you’re raising the next Beethoven!
Sing Along Songs. Libraries are a great source of CDs of children’s music. Bring them home, download them onto iTunes on your computer, burn your own CDs, and get singing! Make songs part of your everyday routines. A song for waking up, a song for washing your hands, a song if you pray before meals, a song for going to bed, etc. etc. Don’t know a song and can’t find one on a children’s CD? Make one up! Take the tune of your favorite song and add in words to fit the situation. (My favorite is a song for washing hands to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”: Wash, wash, wash your hands/ After work and play/ Scrub, rinse, shake, and dry/ Keep the germs away!).
Singing as Acoustic Highlighting. Adding a sing-song tone to your voice during regular speech can help to acoustically highlight, or give particular emphasis to, a certain word. Try speaking regularly but adding a sing-song tone to a new vocabulary word, or to a word your child omitted when you repeat back to him the correct version of something he has just said.
Dance and Music Classes. Children’s dance and music classes can be wonderful ways to expose young children to music and to give them interaction with hearing peers, teach about following directions, and help them learn in a more structured environment in preparation for formal schooling. Just because a child is deaf does not mean that he or she couldn’t possibly have a remarkable aptitude for the arts (look at Evelyn Glennie, Heather Whitestone, and many, many other successful artists, dancers, performers, and musicians with hearing loss). Give your child a chance to try, and possibly a chance to soar!
What if I’m tone deaf? What if I’m really deaf? What if I’m really tone deaf? Expose your child to music anyway! Even feeling differences in vibrations can help children learn about their own vocal production mechanisms. Many children’s sing-along-songs also come on videotape with the words written along the bottom of the screen and highlighted as they are sung (kind of like open captioning!) so you can follow along and sign/sing to your child as they watch and listen. Mommy-and-Me music classes may also be helpful in providing music models for your child. Many children’s songs CDs come with songbooks which will have the lyrics for you to read, too. But most of all, remember that children are a forgiving audience! To them, your voice is the most beautiful sound in the world. It’s not about the quality of your voice, but that you’ve taken the time to interact with them in a playful and therapeutic way.