Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Music Education and Music Therapy (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kimberly Sena Moore

Second Committee Member

Shannon de l'Etoile

Third Committee Member

Ivette Cejas

Fourth Committee Member

Adam Tierney


Children who utilize cochlear implants (CIs) often have trouble detecting and utilizing prosody, an element of spoken language which uses variance in the timing, pitch, and dynamics of speech to communicate meaning beyond semantics. Without a true grasp of prosody, children with CIs can miss conversational elements such as sarcasm and may not communicate effectively with others. Children with CIs match typically-hearing peers in measures of rhythm perception, but fall below their peers in measures of pitch, or melodic, perception. Evidence for behavioral and neural overlaps between prosody and music perception provide rationale for utilizing a drumming intervention to practice and strengthen detection of speech rhythm, which confers benefits for prosody perception. This exploratory study investigated the use of a Drumming-to-Speech (DTS) intervention to practice identifying stressed syllables in speech and nursery rhymes based on previous evidence demonstrating that improvements in speech rhythm perception can lead to improvements in prosody perception. Twelve children between the ages of three and five completed a five-week protocol. The intervention included pre- and post-tests as well as four in-person, student researcher-led sessions which involved drumming on a tubano drum to stressed syllables in repetitive phrases, nursery rhymes, and songs as well as additional at-home practice in synchronization of speech and drumming. Participants completed Audie (Gordon, 1989), Profiling Elements of Prosody – Children 2015 (PEPS-C, 2015; McCann & Peppé, 2003), and synchronization assessments before and after the intervention in order to determine the intervention’s effects on music and prosody perception, specifically the perception of affective and contrastive stress prosody. Results demonstrated that participants significantly improved in perception of music, both melody and rhythm, and also in emotional prosody, but not in linguistic prosody. These findings support the presence of a strong behavioral and neural overlap between music and emotional prosody perception in synchronizing drum hits with speech rhythm. While participants improved in accuracy and variability of their phase and period synchronization abilities, only the improvements in average phase accuracy during the slow condition reached significance. More research and longer interventions which focus on speech rhythm synchronization may elucidate which aspects of rhythmic information are most important for perceiving speech rhythm and prosody. Additionally, age positively correlated with performance in the emotional prosody subtest at post-test, which may indicate a developmental window that is most appropriate for this intervention. Future recommendations for interventions and research are also addressed, such as increasing intervention dosage and incorporating measures which are sensitive to changes in dependent variables.


cochlear implants; music therapy; rhythm; prosody; early intervention