Learning to Speak Clearly {after 15 years of speech therapy}


Guest post submitted by Sally Goldberg, Ph.D.

Here is how I set out to teach my daughter to sing song words correctly and ended up teaching her to sing on key and have clear speech.

Cynthia Dr SallyWhen Cynthia was 20, she was home with me for the summer. When we used to go out together, she would play music in the car. The songs were from her favorite cassettes at the time, and she would sing along with them with the wrong words and off key.

That really bothered me because I knew she could do better. Since she knew how to read, I began to wonder if reading the words might help. What if I got her large clear lyrics to go with the songs? Then maybe she would be able to sing the words correctly. It was definitely worth a try.

And so... Off to the music store we went! First she chose three favorite songs -- The Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston and The Wind Beneath My Wings and The Rose by Bette Middler. Then we got printouts of the lyrics for all three songs and a cassette of the background music for each. Perfect! We were ready to go!

Upon returning home we started to implement the plan. Beginning with The Greatest Love of All, I played the music, and she sang. As I watched her read the words, I saw that she chopped off syllables wherever she could. Any words with three syllables or more were chopped to two. In addition, she left out lots of to's, and's, and the's.

Ohhhh! I couldn't believe my eyes! The reason for Cynthia's unclear speech had just been identified. After a good 15 years of speech therapy, with no one being able to solve the problem, we now found the cause -- leaving out syllables. You can't solve a problem until you know what it is, and now I knew.

Time to expand the plan. Besides singing the correct words, saying all the syllables would now also be required. Easier said than done. Not so easy!  Ingrained habits are very hard to break... but not impossible.

We began our work again with the Greatest Love  of All, a song Cynthia loved to sing  After each time she sang it, I would tell her it was very good, point out the syllable errors, and then tell her she had to sing it again until she got it right. Each time she sang it better, but it took a long time to get it just right. Although she wanted to stop many times during this process, and so did I; we both persisted. Enduring all kinds of frustration, she had to keep going until she had the lyrics about 95% correct. The idea was that once she had the song down right, she could then go on to another song.

The Wind Beneath My Wings was next, and then came The Rose. Each new song was a special treat and easier to learn than the one before it. What a success, and here is the best part. By going through this difficult process, she not only learned three great songs to sing correctly, but she also learned to sing on key! And then the real magic happened. Cynthia's attention to syllables carried over to her normal speech, and from that point on she had clear speech. That was amazing!

The next thing we knew she was invited by a Parent's group to inspire them. These were all parents of children who had Down syndrome. And inspire them she did! She talked to them a little about some of the challenges she had faced and emphasized how well she was doing away at the program she was in at Cape Cod Community College. She then sang one of her songs for this group (see photo), and much to everyone’s surprise, received a standing ovation. At the end, she showed them the songbooks she had made for her friends at school and told them how much fun she had singing with them on bus trips and during other free time.


Dr. Sally is a pioneer in the field of early childhood education. Based on her many previous books, Dr. Sally is now bringing us tips, activities, and parenting techniques. Check in every week to see what she has for you on Monday Morning Coffee, Tuesday Afternoon Tea, and Wednesday Evening Wine: Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally

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