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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Monday, March 11, 2013

Snoopi Says . . . The Wonderful World of Music

The Wonderful World of Music!!

Hi everyone, this is Snoopi again. I’m doing a blog once a month. Eventually I’m hoping to have it like a Dear Abby so people can write in with questions and I will answer them. But I haven’t been able to talk to Caroline about that yet. So for now I am picking the topic myself and the topic this time will be “music and how it can affect people.”

Introducing Children Who Use AAC to Music
I want to start by explaining how you might introduce a child to music. For me, what changed my life as a child was when I wanted to be in a music class, but it was already full. The music teacher was kind enough to let me try out the base drums and we both were surprised on how I was with rhythm, even though I had spastic movement. So she let me be part of the cast and that made me realize that I had music abilities. So for other children, I would suggest that you start that same way because there are so many different beats to music. A base drum is big enough to where aim is not important. You can hit it anywhere on the top. So if someone does not have to aim it makes them more relaxed and able to follow a beat at the same time. This is also good therapy for muscle control. Little by little, you can work on hitting the drum in the center. After you do that, you can move to more instruments and hitting them in the right place. You might move to a snare drum, then a cymbal and maybe a triangle. That will open the door to a xylophone and maybe other instruments that require a more precise hit.

Beyond the Drum!
If they are able to use their fingers, you might try them on a harpsichord that you strum. If you don’t know what a harpsichord is, it basically lies on a table and you can strum it without moving it. Another instrument that might be good is a q-chord. It has cartridges that you insert and it will have different melodies that will follow along as you strum. It requires almost no musical knowledge. It does need power, so you can either plug it in or run on batteries.

If someone has good use of their fingers, you might try them on a piano so they can learn the music scale. However, in my own opinion, an organ or an electronic piano would be better. This is because on a piano you have to hit every key rather hard. If someone has weak muscles in their fingers, they won’t be able to hit hard enough on a piano to play it. An organ or an electronic piano requires only a light touch and is easier to play.

Singing with DECtalk
If they are interested in singing, DECtalk is a wonderful tool for that. It has male and female voices, plus you can customize your own voice. In order to make it sing, you have to know phonetic spelling. Let me tell you what happened to me when I learned phonetic spelling. I had to learn how to build words sound by sound. I did this when I was an adult, but I wish I could have learned it as a child and let me tell you why. I had many years of speech therapy and they were trying to help me learn how to talk. Even though they went over every sound that was in every word, for me it would have been better if I would have learned phonetic spelling at the same time. As an adult, with every word that I program, I have a better understanding of how everything is pronounced and I was able to make my own speech just a little bit clearer. The more I program phonetically, the more I remember all the speech therapy that I had and little by little it seems to make more sense. So, in my mind, if a child could learn phonetic spelling as part of their speech therapy, it would make everything sink in just a little bit more. Not only that, but by learning phonetic spelling, if children don’t know how to spell a word the normal way, they have the option of building the word phonetically and learn how to spell it normally if they need to.

Let me give you an example. I remember hearing about someone who got a microscope for Christmas and his parents didn’t even know that he even knew what one was. Right away, he wanted to find an “organism.” That word is not in any communication device, so he had to say that word over and over until his parents understood what he was saying. So if he knew how to phonetically spell a word, there would not be any word that he could not say on a communication device.

The Power of Music!
So music really has a lot of power in many other things in life. For example, if someone learns how to play a thumb cymbal, they can then snap a button on a shirt because it requires the same movement. If they learn how to hit a triangle, it might help them when they are trying to hit a button on an elevator. So there are many reasons why someone should get into music.

Need More Info?
If anyone does not know by now, I have a CD called “DECtalk 101” that not only helps people learn phonetic spelling, but it will help them learn how to read music. And if you have a communication device that runs on Windows but does not have DECtalk in it, you can download a free version from my site.

From there, you can go to my store where you can also buy karaoke tracks. They are songs that are already done with DECtalk and music is already mixed in. If someone does not want to use their device, these songs might be a helpful tool. The reason is, when they learn how a voice can fit in with something that everyone enjoys, it makes them more comfortable using their device and it also helps people around them who understand that their device is only another way for them to talk.

DECtalk brings people together because many individuals enjoy hearing it sing. There is an email listserv specifically for discussing DECtalk. To subscribe, visit

I hope you find this blog helpful and I hope you enjoy the wonderful world of music.

Snoopi Botten

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