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Vowels—Sonic Gems of Emotion for Social Communication: Practical Singing Strategies for Non-musician Teachers with Developmentally Diverse Young Children

Abstract

Communicative and social capacities are known to be of primary developmental importance to all children and often present a particular difficulty for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. A recurring challenge for teachers is achieving effective communication with children who span developmental diversity (e.g. inclusive settings or those with a range of special needs) while using practical strategies that feel manageable to the teachers themselves. Music, a powerful affective medium, is appealing to all children and has the inherent flexibility to reach differing individuals. Thus, it is especially valuable for children with autism and other special needs. However, teachers without musical training may miss a great deal of music’s potential benefits. The author describes an affective singing technique that, while grounded in vocal practice and music theory, uses an overt focus upon vowels—vowels being known conveyors of emotion in sounded communication. This natural port of entry offers non-musician teachers a simple and accessible way to incorporate live singing into daily activities that opens space for two-way affective communication, a crucial component of social development. Key concepts in this paper are elucidated by childhood instructional and play scenarios and graphics. The discussion is supported by published behavioral and imaging research.

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Acknowledgments

The author wishes to acknowledge Dorothy Denton for stimulating conversations on early childhood music education and music therapy, Anne Reynolds for pediatric speech/language professional advice and Jessica Phillips-Silver for her invaluable insights regarding music neuroscience research.

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The author declares she has no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Kaja Weeks.

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Weeks, K. Vowels—Sonic Gems of Emotion for Social Communication: Practical Singing Strategies for Non-musician Teachers with Developmentally Diverse Young Children. Early Childhood Educ J 43, 515–522 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-014-0681-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-014-0681-2

Keywords

  • Music
  • Singing
  • Vowels
  • Relational
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Preschool teachers