Music has a role in some of my earliest social memories. Car trips with my grandpa often ended with our “listening” to his stereo by holding a mid-bass shell, which he’d take from one speaker. As the music played, that shell pulsated, conveying the beat to my fingertips. The whole new sensory experience revealed what my hearing-aids missed. Plus, it was quality time with my grandpa, who kept the music going while he was out and about.
For deaf children, music is a valuable tool. Listening can be practised, new speech rhythms better understood, co-ordinated movements learned and social contact enjoyed. My speech therapist cleverly built these benefits into her daily classes. Sentences would be pronounced to the tap of her hand on the table in emulation of speech rhythms. The last five minutes of each class was also spent listening to music through headphones, or playing a keyboard with different settings.
At childrens’ parties, inclusion was ensured in games like ‘musical bumps’ or ‘statues’ by using hand signals to flag when the music stopped. Generally, music can be more accessible to a deaf child than the complexities of speech or other sounds. Given the chance, most deaf children will enjoy stepping to a beat, music games and copying rhythms on a drum. A great tip is to give older children an inflated balloon to hold while listening to a strong beat – everyone will be surprised!