During my 2017 Spring semester of grad school, I was a student clinician in the Nazareth College Neurogenic Communication and Cognition Clinic. This on-campus clinic provides speech, language, and cognitive services to individuals with acquired disorders. While I gained experience working one-on-one with clients, I was also given the opportunity to engage in group therapy co-treatment with other disciplines. This included physical therapy, art therapy, occupational therapy, and music therapy. It is here that I gained an additional appreciation for disciplines we often work closely with as Speech-Language Pathologists.

My speech therapy and music therapy co-treatment led to a unique experience working with an individual with Right Hemisphere Brain Damage (RHD). One of the main deficits presented in this client’s case was aprosodia, involving a breakdown in prosodic contours of speech. This affected the client’s linguistic and affective expressive and receptive prosody during conversational speech, with a marked rising pitch at the end of most utterances.

Due to the limited evidence-based literature in the field regarding treatment approaches for aprosodia, my professor, Dr. Melissa Johnson, and I decided to conduct our own research throughout the semester focused on aprosodia secondary to RHD. Throughout the semester our speech and music therapy co-treatment components included:

  • Vocal warm-ups
  • Unison or client-only singing of familiar songs with musical accompaniment
  • Cognitive-linguistic analysis of the prosodic features needed to convey emotion (happy, sad, angry) in semantically neutral sentences
  • Drumming exercises targeting rhythmic control
  • Oral reading exercises targeting production and self-monitoring of rate and prosody
  • Naturalistic conversation to promote generalization

music therapy

music therapy

Our findings at the end of the semester between baseline data and post-treatment data showed an improvement in speech rhythm with significant improvement in affective and linguistic prosody. Dr. Johnson and I decided to send a research proposal to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to participate in a poster presentation at the 2017 ASHA Convention to share our findings; come Fall 2017, we were off to Los Angeles, California sharing our findings with other professionals from across the country.

The experience I gained both personally and professionally from the co-treatments, the research process, and the poster presentation at ASHA made a huge impact on me as I began my clinical work; knowing that a meaningful and thoughtful treatment plan was successful for the client was also an added bonus! With the many opportunities I have been presented with, I am thankful, and as I now move forward through my Clinical Fellowship Year I hope to continue to make a difference in my patient’s lives while continuing to grow as a professional clinician.

If you have any related thoughts or ideas, we’d love to hear.

About The Author: Originally from Syracuse, NY Stephanie Casale has a Bachelors’s Degree from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY.  She is also a graduate of Nazareth’s Speech Language Pathology Program.  Stephanie is a Clinical Fellow with Language Fundamentals in Rochester, NY.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, and visiting family in her hometown of Syracuse.