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<p>Children who utilize cochlear implants (CIs) often have trouble detecting prosody, an element of speech that uses variances in timing, pitch, and dynamics to communicate meaning. Without recognizing prosody, they can miss conversational elements and may not communicate effectively with others. Children with CIs match peers in measures of rhythm perception, but fall behind in pitch perception. Research suggests that improvements in speech rhythm perception can lead to improvements in prosody perception. In this exploratory study I examined the effect of a novel Drumming-to-Speech (DTS) intervention that facilitates practice in identifying stressed syllables in speech to improve prosody perception in children with CIs. In addition, I explored the impact of the intervention on music perception and examined relationships between demographic variables (e.g. hearing age) and synchronization ability with intervention outcomes. Twelve participants (6 female, M = 4.6 years old) completed the DTS intervention, which included four weeks of individual music therapy sessions and at-home practice. Sessions incorporated drumming to stressed syllables in speech and rhymes and practice synchronizing to speech and drumming. Participants completed assessments of music and prosody perception and synchronization ability pre- and post-intervention. I conducted a series of nonparametric related samples Wilcoxon signed-rank tests to assess intervention efficacy, as well as a series of Spearman’s rank correlations to examine relationships between demographic and synchronization variables and intervention outcomes. While participants did not improve in linguistic prosody perception, they did significantly improve in affective prosody perception. In addition, participants improved significantly in melody and rhythm perception and certain elements of synchronization accuracy. Overall, results indicate potential for the DTS intervention to improve affective prosody perception and identification of speech rhythm. Clinical implications and recommendations for intervention modifications and research in this area will also be addressed.</p> <p>-Jessica MacLean, University of Miami</p>
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