Music Therapy… What is that?


“I know what I was made to do!”  I said to my father excitedly, “I want to be a music therapist!”  “Great!” replied my father, followed by “What is that?”  I gave him a feeble answer at the time and then with full support, my parents saw me off to Ontario to fulfill this newfound dream.  That was 20 years ago and I am still answering the question “What is that?” when I mention that I am a music therapist to new people that I meet.

The Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT) defines music therapy as “the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.”  The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” 

I, however, answer the question: “What is music therapy?” in a variety of ways.  It is the profession I am so fortunate to work in, where I use the creative medium of music to help various individuals become the best they can be!  Music therapy is meeting the person where they are at and then helping them grow, develop and learn. It is establishing a therapeutic relationship with others where change and growth can occur through the intentional use of music and music therapy approaches and interventions.  Completing assessments, making goals, planning programming and implementing services are part of all client interactions.

Music therapy is listening in both the chaos and the silence and giving a creative outlet and voice to those who feel they are never heard.  It is encouraging the child with cerebral palsy to reach out to hit the drum as a form of reaching mobility goals and decreasing muscle tension.   It is dancing with the senior who is wandering the hall and through song and music, encouraging them to sit and participate in a communal music experience where they find connection, relaxation and feel alive.  It is communicating in a shared musical dialogue with a child with autism and giving them opportunities to express and relate in their own way.  Music therapy is providing moments of connection between an adult with dementia and their loved ones, care givers and peers as they share in a positive social experience.  It is providing music to soothe, comfort, and help with pain relief physically, emotionally and spiritually with families who have a loved one in palliative care.

Music therapy is giving the gift of confidence and increased self-esteem while individuals are provided opportunities to be successful in their own unique ways.  It is using music intentionally to work on certain speech sounds and goals with children, youth and adults with speech difficulties.  It is working with an individual who has been through trauma and through music exploration can work on attachment and self-regulation.

Music therapy is a profession that can work with anyone regardless of age and ability.  It is a modality in which brain based change and growth occurs, as music activates both hemispheres of the brain.   Music releases the “feel good” hormone dopamine, it can cause blood pressure to lower, and has been found to decrease stress hormones.  I am sure all of us can list ways that music has enhanced our lives, altered our moods, brought back memories and motivated us.

Music therapy is many things to many people but what may not be known is that to be a music therapist one has to attain at least an undergraduate degree in music therapy, and could attain a Masters or Doctorate degree as well which all include supervised clinical work.  We also work to become certified with our national association, the Canadian Association for Music Therapists, and to maintain this certification we must engage in continuing education opportunities on a yearly basis.

To me, music therapy is many different things some which can be measured and researched and others that can only be seen and felt in the heart!

Singing inside and out,

Melanie McDonald, BMT, MTA

For further information on music therapy, visit www.musictherapy.ca.  To see who benefits from hiring a music therapist go to http://www.jbmusictherapy.com/when-would-i-ever-hire-a-music-therapist/



Elf On The Shelf; 6 Ways to Use Elf on the Shelf for Speech and Langauge in the Home

Practicing language or even speech sounds in the home shouldn’t be an added chore.  In fact, the more natural the environment you practice your language and speech sounds in the better chance of your son or daughter carrying over their new skills in everyday situations! 

So, we have compiled 6 ideas on how to use your “Elf on a Shelf” this Christmas season to help with your speech and language goals.

1.  Practice answering “wh” questions

When your child finds his or her elf then next day, practice answering various “wh” questions such as where, who, what, etc.  Your elf lets your child answer questions like; “Who is he playing with?”, “What is she doing?”, or “Where is he hiding today?”  The questions are endless.  This offers a natural and functional opportunity for you to ask multiple wh-questions in an exciting setting, making it feel less like you are testing your child with the endless questions!  Don’t forget to use some wait time to allow your child to answer and model appropriate answers for them if they are unable to respond after the wait time.

2. Teach Prepositions!

When you hide your elf, consider hiding him in unique positions or even different containers! This allows you to teach your child about prepositions in a meaningful way.  You could hide your elf in the Christmas tree, or behind a chair, or on top of a Lego tower! You could even hide him inside a container, or trap him under a jar.  The options are endless.

3. Develop Recall Skills

Use the elf on the shelf to further develop your child’s ability to recall past events and share them with other family members.  When your child calls his grandma, or when dad gets home from work, discuss what the elf did in detail!  This lets your child stretch his or her memory and gives them a chance to practice past tenses (i.e.; the elf hid in the Christmas tree).

4. Build Prediction and Reasoning Skills

Ask your child questions that get him or her thinking.   Why do they think the elf got tied up or stuck in that crazy situation.  Get them to predict about the future and try to guess what you think Elf will get into or be up to the next morning.  The options are endless and setting the elf up in more detailed scenes allows for you to model and coach your child to use their story telling skills involving predictions and problem solving!

5. Help Teach Sequencing Skills

Have your elf set out a cook book with ingredients, or craft supplies for a Christmas craft, or even a mini Lego set to build that day and talk about the steps, “first we ____ then we ___”  Ask questions such as “What do we do next?”, or “How did we make these cookies?” Focus on vocabulary such as first, second, then, and even the word and! This helps your son or daughter sequence their stories.

6. Practice Your Child’s Speech Sounds

Have your elf pick out books that have your child’s speech sounds in it.  For example, maybe your child needs help with his or her s-blends, set out I Spy books with the elf and practice saying “I ssspy…” Or maybe your elf sets out a book with Cookie Monster so your son or daughter can target their /k/ sound.  The elf could be hiding in a bag of /s/ objects or give them instructions to find some things in the house that start with /k/.  The options are endless.


What to look for when hiring a private speech language pathologist.

So you need to hire a private speech language pathologist. You have accessed public services and perhaps you are on a waiting list, or want to supplement the services you are receiving. This has led you down the path of hunting for private speech language pathologist (SLP). Finding the right professional that will help you, your child, or your family member can be a daunting task. It can be easy to just pick the first person that you find, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the right professional for you. Taking the time to find the right fit can be a worthwhile endeavour. So how to begin?

At the very least you can check educational and professional credentials. It’s highly unlikely that a person will be calling themselves a speech language pathologist if they are not, as it is a protected title. An SLP must possess a Master’s Degree from a reputable academic institution . They must also hold appropriate licensure from the province in which they maintain their practice. Additionally, many SLP’s will also hold either American or Canadian certification. If you are unsure about a professional you can check with a provincial licensing body to ensure that they are a member in good standing (here in Saskatchewan check with saslpa.ca).

Now let’s get to the trickier areas to evaluate:

Consider Experience
This is a difficult area to quantify. Looking for the therapist with many years experience may not be all that useful. It can’t be just any experience; it has to be the right experience! After all, do you really want a therapist with 20 years of experience in treating school age children’s articulation deficits when your toddler needs help with early language development (or vice versa)? Looking for a clinician’s direct experience with clients that have your child or family member’s communication difficulties will be invaluable. It is also a good idea to inquire regarding the areas of specialization of the therapist in order to find out whether he/she has successfully treated children with similar problems to your child’s. A good therapist will be honest about their direct experience with clients that have similar difficulties to yours.

Ask for recommendations and references.
One of my favourite speakers always says “competence speaks for itself”. We have all been there as a consumer, where we are unsure of the services being provided by the professional we are paying for. You probably wouldn’t hire a contractor to renovate your house randomly out of the phonebook or from a website, so don’t be shy and ask for references. Therapists should be more than happy to provide you with names of both parents and other professionals who will recommend their services.

Does your child or family member respond to and enjoy your therapist.
This sounds almost silly or simplistic, but communication development is about positive and fun interactions that are lead by the client, no matter the age. If we are talking about little children: is your therapist down on the floor, does your child warm up to them over a reasonable amount of time, do they know when to expect more of your child and when to back off? All clients can have good sessions and bad sessions, but overall your child or family member should develop a positive rapport quickly and easily with your therapist that continues over sessions. This rapport or therapeutic relationship can go a long way to helping develop confidence and communication.

Does your therapist include you?
If you are like most families your child will not be at speech therapy daily, what you are able to do at home really counts. Does your therapist listen to your concerns, work on things that matter to you, include you in the therapy and provide reasonable, doable suggestions? This piece really does matter. Is your therapist able to describe what they are doing, and why and include you in the planning and implementation of goals? Including your opinions and experiences as a parent is critical in ensuring the success of the intervention!

Does your therapist consider all aspects of your family life?
Let’s be honest, very seldom do you get one on one quiet time with your child in a secluded room. The reality is often you are working on speech in the car, in the tub, with siblings and other distractors. Does your therapist recognize this and provide strategies to work with all these factors? Also are they mindful of your budgetary needs? Work, and extra-curricular schedules? Is your therapist able to work with you in establishing doable programs with all the extras life throws at you? A therapist that is responsive to all the factors in your life is more likely to build a program you can follow at home!

Consider knowledge and professional development.
In order to maintain their licensure and certification all therapists are required to take professional education courses in order to stay up to date with all the relevant research and new treatments developed in our field. Speech language pathology is a well researched field; new methods are continually being developed and information is constantly changing. When you are selecting your therapist it is important to find out just how up to date are they on the current research, treatment methods and methodologies pertaining to your child or family members speech and language deficits. Your therapist should be forthcoming and appreciate inquiries regarding their background and relevant training. If something doesn’t make sense ask follow up questions.

Lastly: Don’t be intimidated!
This should be a partnership. You should understand and agree with you therapist’s methods and approaches and feel comfortable participating in and adding to your child or family member’s treatment. Ask questions, encourage explanations and create a dialogue. We don’t believe that we have a magic wand, but we do have expertise and knowledge that we can provide to you as a parent or caregiver that can support, guide, and help you teach your child.


Just in time for Christmas: Some toy advice…

Hello to all the friends and families of Regina Speech Centre.


Well, Christmas is upon us and approaching fast. It happens every year, you blink after Halloween and the stores are filled with Christmas decorations, treats and toys… and more and more toys. The TV screen is filled with advertisements, every flier is stuffed full of pictures and our children are bombarded with images of the latest and greatest ideas for their wish list. As a parent I struggle each year to balance what my children want with something I think is worth spending the money on, because the price tag seems to grow each year. With that in mind I thought I’d write down a few ideas to help guide you this Christmas season and hopefully give you something to think about before you pull out the wallet. As speech language pathologists we spend our careers testing toys. Every hour of every day is spent in play with the parents and children we work with, and I think it gives us a unique perspective on toys and their longevity and functionality. Combine that with the research and I am confident that we are able to give you a few toy buying tips this season.
So here it goes… 5 things you should look for in a toy:
5. Will it last?
No, I don’t mean can you throw it down the stairs and it doesn’t break (although that is a helpful feature in many toys). I mean, are your children able to use the toy over a few years, and longer hopefully. Is it a toy that has more than one use and can grow with your child? These are the toys that I still have in my house. If the toy only does one thing: push the button and it sings or lights up, chances are your child will outgrow the toy or get bored quickly. Look at the toy and think: what will my child be able to do with this toy this year or next. Let me give you an example:
A set of large nesting blocks: At age one your child can pull them apart, try and stack them fill them and dump them. At 2 they will be able to fit them back together by size, line them up, or label the pictures on them. At 3 they can use them in pretend play as a train, or cups for their dolls, figure out how to nest them and build giant towers. At 4 you can use them for more pretend play, create games with them, or build them up and high and knock them down.
4. No batteries
Seriously, NO BATTERIES! I have over the years found some fun toys that came with batteries, but I just remove them so the toys no longer make noise. There are some few and far between battery toys that are fun (for example: remote controlled vehicles or the occasional board game) but for the most part a battery based toy tends to be another one of those one shot wonder toys. It is designed to do one thing light up or make noise or move. The limitation in these skills sadly reflects the limited play skills developmental skills and language skills your child can gain from playing with such toys.

Also, from experience let me tell you these toys are fun for a short period but they will not stand the test of time.
To add on top of this is the broad base of growing research around the impact of noisy toys on children’s hearing. Did you know that there are no industry standards for what is a safe noise level for a child who is in close range to a noisy toy for a prolonged period? These toys have the capability of causing hearing damage. Also there is another broad base of research rolling out that demonstrates noisy toys are detrimental to caregiver child interactions. They impact the quality of interactions. The first few years of life are the basis for your child’s language development, which supports their early literacy development in school. If you are going to spend a big chunk of change on a toy let’s make sure it isn’t something that research actually shows is detrimental to development.
3. Fosters resourcefulness and problem solving
We all want our children to become independent in all areas of their life, including thinking. The ability to learn how to solve problems actually begins in play when children are challenged to think using the world around them. Look for the toys that require assembly, manipulation of materials, or solving skills. These are toys such as: play sets, building bricks, wooden blocks, train tracks, craft supplies, puzzles, interactive books, or board games to play as a family! Toys that allow your child to problem solve how to assemble or manipulate items, such as flaps in flap books for your little one, are equally as important as toys that allow for open ended play. These toys will develop their reasoning skills, problem solving skills, and engage them in sorting out their environments. The other beautiful piece to toys such as this is they naturally allow you as a parent to join in. They naturally set up opportunities for you to work alongside your child. Allowing your child independence to solve problems in their own way in play with flow over into their life and give them the ability to solve problems when they arrive on the playground or in school.

2. Promotes pretend play
Have you seen all the news buzz lately about the importance of unstructured play time for children? In this increasingly busy world the time to play with no agenda seems to be the last priority and children have less time for pretend play. Why is this problematic? The idea of pretend play is not as simple as it may seem. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas. Did you know pretend play demonstrates a child’s knowledge of the world and essentially shows off their thinking skills? Imagination builds cognitive skills in many areas that are critical for later school and work success including: language, reasoning, social interaction and problem solving. So looking for toys that allow children the ability to pretend is a real boon to their brain growth. Anything from dolls, to kitchen sets, costumes and farm sets allow children to act out the world around them. This type of play is so open ended, really anything goes. You can see how children get a chance to practice all of their skills when engaging in symbolic play. Find something you think is fun too, so you can get in on the play and model and expand their schemes for them!

1.  Promotes interaction

This one comes from the speechy side of me. Any toy that encourages face to face play time with an adult or other children is a win, win. Too many times we look for a toy that will occupy our child without us, and while I see the benefit of this as a parent myself (we all need some time to get things done in life), the time we spend talking and interacting with our children is critical. Research shows that children who have had large amounts of conversation directed towards them throughout their preschool years enter school with a much higher vocabulary and go on to be much stronger readers. Join in and play with your child! Ask yourself, would I enjoy playing this with my child? If the answer is yes, then you will probably get more value out of the toy if it encourages you to play with them!

Well, that really is all the advice I can muster this Christmas season. I hope this gives you a few ideas to guide you when you are out fighting the crowds at the mall. If you want some face to face advice please check out our Toy Talk sessions at the Early Years Family Centres over the next two weeks. You can see the full schedule by visiting their website at: http://www.reginakids.ca/regina-childrens-initiative/early-years-family-centres and clicking on the December newsletter and calendar link.
Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season from the Regina Speech Centre!




Nichole and I have been feeling so blessed and excited to start this new venture here in Regina. Our goal is to provide quality, family centred communication intervention in the Regina area, and we feel like we have made an excellent start. With that in mind, Regina Speech Centre is thrilled to announce that it’s official; we have our own space! We have been enjoying our time at Well Point Health, our temporary location, but are happy to let our clients know that we will begin renovations on our very own clinic in January. We are so excited to have our vision fulfilled and be able to offer our families expanded and improved services. We can’t wait to see what this new adventure will bring, including: more therapists, more group services and a guaranteed family friendly space. We will be sure to keep you updated with the progress of the renovations and hope to have the doors open for business in March of 2017.


Welcome to Regina’s Speech Centre!

Regina Speech Centre is a private practice speech and language therapy clinic that aims to provide quality, family centred therapy services to children and families in Regina and surrounding areas. We offer assessments, consultations and direct therapy to children birth to school age in our community. We offer services using the most current, best practice  methods at our centre, in homes, schools and daycares.

We offer comprehensive therapy focusing on children as a whole.  We are able to support your child through using our many years of experience in our field, and have expertise in many of the following areas:

  • speech delays
  • early language development (toddlers)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • stuttering
  • parent coaching
  • expressive and receptive language disorders
  • motor speech disorders (Childhood apraxia of speech)
  • cochlear implants
  • auditory processing
  • literacy and language
  • developmental and global delays
  • preschool language development

Contact us today so we can help you meet your family’s needs!