2004 Conference Proceedings
2004 Conference Proceedings

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2004 Table of Contents 


Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite (Assistive technology consultant)
Special Communications
916 West Castillo Drive
Litchfield Park, AZ 85340
Phone: (602) 935-4656 (year round phone)
Email: carmussel@mindspring.com

Alice Schnepf (Assistive Technology Trainer)
Team Ed
6838 S. 24th Place
Phoenix, AZ 85042
Phone: (602) 323-0894
Fax: (602) 323-0894
Email: alice@teamed.net

Kellie Martin-Mendonis (Speech-Language Pathologist)
St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Center
Preschool for Multihandicapped Children
34-09 209 Street Bayside, NY 11361
Phone: (718) 279-0537
Email: kellieannmartin@yahoo.com


Music is simply too important a part of life for most children - typical children or children with disabilities - to be overlooked. Singing can provide support for literacy development, as it has a number of advantages.

In addition, the motivational value of using songs to promote learning should not be ignored. Music is also an activity that is easy to carry over in a variety of settings, including classrooms, group homes, and home environments.


Increasingly, school systems are requiring teaching according to academic standards in areas such as math, science, and social studies. This approach offers special challenges to educators of students with significant disabilities, including students who use augmentative and alternative communication, students on the autism spectrum, and students with cognitive delays. Songboards are the brain child of Carol Goossens'. She has developed a set of eight 22" x 22" colored songboards to support AAC users in singing traditional songs (see SEAC Songboard Set in References). She has also designed scores of songboards to scaffold learning of stories and concepts. Songboards may be especially useful for students with significant disabilities for several reasons:

Visual Supports. Many students with significant disabilities benefit from visual supports. Visual supports offer a concrete representation of information.

Rhyme and Rhythm as a Carrier of Information. Rhyme helps students focus on word endings, and helps with predicting words, both literacy scaffolds. Rhythm helps students to organize information. People without disabilities use many samples of one or both of these scaffolds to support memory:

Motivation. As described previously, music is highly motivating for most students. Music is often seen as a highly rated item on interest inventories completed by parents or teachers. As professionals, we can use this interest to support students in content learning.


Songboards can be used to support general learning (left - to - right print tracking), but can also be employed to aid individuals in learning across the curriculum. Samples include:

Science Songboards: Songboards can be used to introduce or further learning in areas such as:

Music Songboards: Music songboards can teach concepts such as:

Social Studies Songboards: Social studies songboards are especially easy to develop, including diverse topics such as:


Songboards are one way to present diverse academic materials to learners with significant disabilities. These songboards can help students make language and learning visible. They are also a fun way to scaffold learning!


Goossens', C. (2000). Songboards, Set A. Southeast Aug Comm Publications, UCP of Greater Birmingham, 2430 11th Avenue North, Birmingham, AL 35234.

Musselwhite, C. (1996). Singing To Read: Songs For Favorite Children's Books. Special Communications, 916 W. Castillo Dr., Litchfield Park, AZ 85340.

Musselwhite, C. (1995). Sound Box Songs: Symbolized Songs For Vowels and Consonants. Special Communications, 916 W. Castillo Dr., Litchfield Park, AZ 85340.

Musselwhite, C. (1992). Symbol Songbook: Older Students Sing Out. Special Communications, 916 W. Castillo Dr., Litchfield Park, AZ 85340.

Website that supports augmentative and alternative communication, including music and nursery rhymes for students who use AAC.

Website offers many resources for supporting language and literacy through music for young children. See especially: freebies and articles such as "A Word About Books That Sing and Chant."

Fabulous songsite! Includes the lyrics for songs alphabetically, by subject, by lyric, etc. Also has a Song of the Week, online bookstore and more.

Go to previous article 
Go to next article 
Return to 2004 Table of Contents 
Return to Table of Proceedings

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.