Question: Can musical rhythmic intervention improve the language skills of those with dyslexia? Do different types of intervention have different magnitudes of effect?
1.) Overy, K. (2006). Dyslexia and Music. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 999, 497-505.
The underlying causes of the language and literacy difficulties experienced by dyslexic children are not yet fully understood, but current theories suggest that timing deficits may be a key factor. Dyslexic children have been found to exhibit timing difficulties in the domains of language, music, perception and cognition, as well as motor control. The author has previously suggested that group music lessons, based on singing and rhythm games, might provide a valuable multisensory support tool for dyslexic children by encouraging the development of important auditory and motor timing skills and subsequently language skills. In order to examine this hypothesis, a research program was designed that involved the development of group music lessons and musical tests for dyslexic children in addition to three experimental studies. It was found that classroom music lessons had a positive effect on both phonologic and spelling skills, but not reading skills. Results also indicated that dyslexic children showed difficulties with musical timing skills while showing no difficulties with pitch skills. These apparent disassociations between spelling and reading ability and musical timing and pitch ability are discussed. The results of the research program are placed in the context of a more general model of the potential relationship between musical training and improved language and literacy skills.
2.) Overy, K. (2000). Dyslexia, Temporal Processing and Music: The Potential of Music as an Early Learning Aid for Dyslexic Children. Psychology of Music, 28(2), 218-229.
There is extensive evidence suggesting that the language and literacy problems experienced by dyslexics are caused by deficits in various sensory, cognitive and motor processes. Several theories on the underlying cause of these deficits are converging on the idea that the fundamental problems derive from abnormal neurological timing, or “temporal processing”. It has been proposed that temporal processing ability can be improved through training, and that this will lead to improved language and literacy skills (Tallal et al., 1996). Music training, requiring very accurate timing skills, can offer a medium for the development and improvement of temporal processing ability, and thus may provide a valuable form of extra remediation for dyslexic children. This article reports some preliminary work in this area, which has produced encouraging results. Further research is also outlined.
3.) Overy, K., Nicolson, R., Fawcett, A., Clarke, E. (2003). Dyslexia and music: measuring musical timing skills. Dyslexia, 9(1), 18-36.
Over the last few decades, a growing amount of research has suggested that dyslexics have particular difficulties with skills involving accurate or rapid timing, including musical timing skills. It has been hypothesised that music training may be able to remediate such timing difficulties, and have a positive effect on fundamental perceptual skills that are important in the development of language and literacy skills (Overy, 2000). In order to explore this hypothesis further, the nature and extent of dyslexics’ musical difficulties need to be examined in more detail. In the present study, a collection of musical aptitude tests (MATs) were designed specifically for dyslexic children, in order to distinguish between a variety of musical skills and sub-skills. 15 dyslexic children (age 7–11, mean age 9.0) and 11 control children (age 7–10, mean age 8.9) were tested on the MATs, and their scores were compared. Results showed that the dyslexic group scored higher than the control group on 3 tests of pitch skills (possibly attributable to slightly greater musical experience), but lower than the control group on 7 out of 9 tests of timing skills. Particular difficulties were noted on one of the tests involving rapid temporal processing, in which a subgroup of 5 of the dyslexic children (33%) (mean age 8.4) was found to account for all the significant error. Also, an interesting correlation was found between spelling ability and the skill of tapping out the rhythm of a song, which both involve the skill of syllable segmentation. These results support suggestions that timing is a difficulty area for dyslexic children, and suggest that rhythm skills and rapid skills may need particular attention in any form of musical training with dyslexics. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.