Rhythm Detection and Production: Relations with Phonological Awareness Skill at School-Entry
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The present study examines the connection between phonological awareness and rhythm perception and processing in early school aged children who score low on tests for phonological awareness for the purpose of providing further evidence of the connection between rhythm processing and specific learning disorders related to reading. A sample of grade one students from New Haven Connecticut with a mean age of 6 years, were examined for their perception and tapping performance of rhythm using two tasks; the first task examined rhythm perception in phonologically impaired children using a series of audio cue pairs that varied in beats per bar, notes per bar, note frequency, meter, the presence of a crocheted note and duration. Results indicated that participants with low scores on phonological awareness performed poorly when compared to the control group in cases where the audio pairs had fewer beats per bar, notes per bar and when the rhythm pair did not contain a quarter note. Results of this tasks suggest that less complex audio cues that contain fewer changes in rhythm were harder for phonologically impaired children to differentiate between. When performing on the second task participants were asked to tap their finger in time to an audio cue using a tablet. Performance was examined during four phases where changes were made to either the presence of the audio cue or pace of the rhythm. Results indicated that changes to rates of tapping (either slower or faster), and predicting the rate of tapping when there is no audio cue are all impacted by the presence of a phonological impairment. These results support previous studies which have highlighted the relationship between rhythm tapping performance and delays in reading whereby children who struggle with reading also seem to struggle to keep in time to a rhythmic audio cue. Overall this study continues to support evidence of a relationship between the neural processing of rhythm in conjunction with phonological awareness and reading challenges.