What is Music Speaks?

Music Speaks is a group program that was developed by Joyce Hignett (me!) and Heidi Flynn, our music therapist extraordinaire.   It is a creative, integrative therapy program that blends components of speech-language pathology and music therapy.  It is currently offered in the fall, winter and spring for 8 week blocks, targeting children from approximately 3 to 9 years of age.  The ratio of instructors to children is typically 3:4 and does not exceed 3:6.

The Early Days…

Heidi and I had had clients in common for years, which was how we met and began to come together therapeutically.  We knew that we wanted to develop a program that would marry our two areas of expertise, incorporate a heavy emphasis on speech and language and maximize on the benefits of music-based learning.Our first group was a pilot project with a huge learning curve for us as instructors.  Sure, we understood in general terms what the other’s profession was about, but that was just the beginning.  From my perspective, I was amazed that the children I thought I knew so well from individual sessions were blowing me away with new skills and a new enthusiasm for therapy when it was packaged with a catchy tune.  And for Heidi, she was learning how much more the children could say and do when ‘pushed’ further to demonstrate their speech and language skills.

And so Heidi and I spent time writing and tweaking songs, learning how to read each other’s cues in sessions and building a program that would jam as much learning and as much fun as possible into a 45 minute group.

Benefits of the Program:


Many of the children (although not all) who enroll in Music Speaks are already known in the clinic through work in individual sessions.  Music Speaks encourages development of new social skills:

  • Separating from caregivers
  • Greeting instructors and peers
  • Sharing and taking turns with peers
  • Asking and answering social questions


We all know that music can elicit a wide range of emotions. Whenever music is used as a basis for learning, it ties closely with emotional skills.  Our program incorporates:

  • Feelings of belonging and acceptance
  • Fostering success and confidence
  • Emotions tied to various songs and musical pieces
  • Creativity and risk-taking

Auditory Processing

We work a lot on listening skills tied with language activities.  Using music adds a different twist to listening tasks, allowing us to incorporate:

  • Matching speed, tempo and volume
  • Listening and remembering beats and sound sequences

Cognition and Language

Music Speaks is chock-full of language goals, chosen to enhance the areas targeted in individual and group speech-language sessions, such as:

  • Focused attending
  • Waiting and listening
  • Language processing hierarchy (labels, functions, associations, categories) and describing skills
  • Procedural language (giving and following instructions)
  • Narrative skills (telling stories, telling about events)
  • Auditory memory and auditory sequential memory (call and answer)
  • Phonological awareness (rhyming, identifying sounds)
  • Generating ideas
  • Answering a huge variety of questions


Another benefit of Music Speaks is that is provides a new way to revitalize articulation therapy for children who have worked hard at mastering sounds.

  • Pairing sounds with instrument playing
  • Call and answer with sounds and syllables
  • Songs that target specific sound families
  • Pairing motor planning for speaking with gross and fine motor movement
  • Modifying tempo, volume and pitch


Many of our clients have goals related to motor skills and music is a natural tool for encouraging movement.  In Music Speaks, we work on:

  • Imitating movements and sequences of movements
  • Remembering sequences of actions for songs
  • Inventing ways to move with music
  • Moving with friends


Even though Music Speaks is not intended primarily to teach music, the participants definitely develop a skill set that sets the stage for other music-based learning:

  • Listening to the instructor and Singing in unison
  • Learning all the words to songs
  • Learning to play a variety of instruments

We are very proud of the Music  Speaks program as it continues to evolve and grow.  If you are interested in learning more about it, please do not hesitate to contact us at the clinic.