Mother Tongue Method, Speech disorders & Violin


Christina W said: Jan 31, 2019
 1 posts

My daughter just started first year violin (recently turned 4) in September and was also recently diagnosed with a severe speech sound disorder. Specifically a phonological disorder. She has difficulty organizing the patterns of sounds in the brain and has a lot of problems being aware of and producing the correct sounds in the English language. Working through her speech disorder with her speech language pathologists is going to involve a lot of language practice. In the case of her English skills, the Mother tongue method has proven to be difficult. English is her first and only language at home and at school and both parents are native English speakers.

I’ve been wondering if violin is the right instrument for her since you need such a refined ear compared to an instrument like piano. I was wondering about her long term success in violin and whether it would give her excessive frustration.

Does anyone else have experience with violinists with early speech disorders?

Angelica said: Feb 1, 2019
Angelica Plass
Suzuki Association Member
Albuquerque, NM
15 posts

Hi Christina
I was just wondering if your daughter was exposed to another language before she was 1?

My personal experience with early childhood speech disorder was with my son. He stuttered a lot and had a lot of ‘ah’s in his sentences and he didn’t pronounce his r’s. I thought it was just because my accent is more Hong Kong/ British and so he was following his mother’s tongue. When he was 7 he was given an IEP for speech therapy which he continued till 8th grade. He is a great violinist, with a wonderful ear. He didn’t go beyond book 3, but has continued music through singing. He still talks through the side of his mouth and slurs when his thoughts are faster than his speech! But that’s my son!

I teach Suzuki piano by the way. While we don’t have to tune our notes, we have to listen for the beautiful tone when we play. I once asked my son if the violin sound hurt his ears. (My grandfather tried to teach me violin, but it hurt MY ears). And he said no!

I don’t know if any of this sheds some light on your situation.



Sarah Farrell said: Feb 1, 2019
 Flute, Recorder
Corrales, NM
4 posts

I teach music and English as a Second Language in a large therapeutic public preschool (600+ children). We actually have 6 classes for children with phonological processing delays. In my years teaching English and Spanish, I have come to believe that learning to play an instrument can actually be very helpful, and I actually did my first Suzuki Teacher training specifically to work with children with phonological and articulation delays.

My theory is this—learning to listen to and play music, and be attuned to the minute differences in tone and articulation, helps train the ear to become better attuned to the differences within the spoken language. As a flute teacher, the training of controlling the tongue and lips also aligns well with speech and articulation.

So, if anything, I would suggest that your daughter learning the violin could be very helpful. Additionally, playing the violin will give your daughter a means of expressing herself in a way that everyone can understand, without having to worry about being understood verbally.

If, indeed, English is her second language, I have found that sometimes children find it easier to learn some of the sounds in the second language, because they are newer, and the children have had less time to get used to saying things different ways. Finally, if you speak a language other than English at home, I encourage you to keep speaking it, so your daughter can fully develop that language, become bilingual, and continue to speak to your extended family.

Sarah Farrell

Kurt Meisenbach said: Feb 2, 2019
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Plano, TX
45 posts

I do not have direct personal experience in this area, but I can share the experience others have had.

My wife is a piano teacher. When we lived in Kansas City, Missouri she had a college age piano student with a severe stuttering problem. When he sang, his stutter disappeared. During his piano study she did not notice any carry-over between his fluence when speaking and his problem when talking normally.

Last month a child neuro psychologist posted an amazing story about his son who had a heart attack and convulsive epilepsy. You can find it under the title Suzuki Method and Neuro Learning. Please read it. It is inspirational.

Music is an inseparable part of human existence. Listening to music makes us healthier. It strengthens our immune system. Music relieves pain. Surgery patients who listen to music before, during, or after surgery need fewer painkillers.

Music reduces blood pressure. It can be helpful to persons who suffer from migraines and chronic headaches by reducing the frequency and intensity of the attacks.

Listening to music helps children who suffer from epilepsy by reducing the number of convulsive episodes. Music therapy can prevent the development of chronic tinnitus, a continuous ringing in the ears.

Listening to relaxing music can improve sleep and reduce sleeping problems. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder show improved performance in mathematics after listening to music.

All the above is based on scientific research and clinical evidence. Scientific research continues to reveal the healing and enabling powers of music. It is not possible to predict the effect that music study will haver on your daughter, but it will be positive and helpful to her.

With regard to the choice of instrument, research has not pointed to one instrument over another. The research is very clear with regard to the type of music. Classical music is more complex than popular music, and for this reason has a more profound effect on brain development.

My personal feeling is that violin is a better choice than piano for your daughter. The requirement to play in tune and the subtleties of producing a good sound on the violin strengthen language and listening skills. Do not be concerned that this will place an excessive demand on your daughter. Just be patient, supportive and aware that like all children, she will develop and progress in her own way.

Angelica said: Feb 2, 2019
Angelica Plass
Suzuki Association Member
Albuquerque, NM
15 posts

Thank you Christina for your question. It has produced so much wonderful information for others too! We all wish you and your daughter a wonderful journey together. Isn’t it strange that it is through difficulties that we progress and become happier?


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