Iowa students learn new ways to help children with speech disorders
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

speech & music therapy

Two researchers from the Netherlands shared with UIowa students a new application of their therapy method that shows promise in helping children who have developmental speech disorders.

Mirjam van Tellingen and Ariska Groen were hosted by Assistant Professor Hayo Terband, Ph.D., who directs CSD's Speech Sensorimotor Lab. Music therapy and speech pathology graduate student clinicians, music therapists, and speech-language pathologists immersed themselves in hands-on learning experiences in a recent 3-day workshop in the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Center.

The method, Speech-Music Therapy for Aphasia (SMTA), was originally developed for clients with Broca’s aphasia, a loss of fluent speech caused by damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. Recently, the method has been adapted and redesigned as a treatment for children with developmental speech disorders, which is a primary research goal for Dr. Terband.

The method uses musical scores that support prosody, the rhythm of speaking words, phrases, and sentences. Treatment is given in a team approach by a music therapist and speech-language pathologist.

"SMTA helps individuals with sequencing and timing of speech movements," said Dr. Terband. "In this way, the therapy is unique."

Beyond clinical experience in daily practice with aphasia patients, initial results from controlled case studies are showing great promise to also benefit a new category of clients: children who develop speech disorders, such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). CAS affects articulatory movements, resulting in speech that is inconsistent and difficult to understand.

In addition to giving Iowa's students state-of-the-art knowledge, the workshop kicked off a collaboration between Iowa and the Dutch SMTA specialists -- van Tellingen and Groen -- who originally developed the therapy in Dutch. The team has  adapted the technique to English and SMTA is now available as a treatment option at the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic.