It is difficult to overstate the importance of beat competency for learning. A large amount of research over the last 20 years has consistently shown how beat competency is vital for academic performance, listening skills, language development, reading and math.
An example of this is the research published in 2009 by Kathleen Corriveau and Usha Goswami* in a collaboration between Harvard University, USA and Cambridge University in the UK. This showed that children with speech and language difficulties had difficulty tapping to a beat when compared to control groups with no deficit in speech development. Other research has recently shown that rhythm perception is linked to an understanding of grammatical structure in sentences. Interestingly, all this research is showing that it is only tapping or moving to an external beat that is impaired. When a beat is self-generated then these children can keep to the beat. There appear to be many links between beat competency and movement in that most of the children in the Corriveau and Goswami research also had difficulties with movement in a coordinated fashion.
So, a perception of an external rhythm requires that the brain be able to synchronize with the external beat and then to match it, whether that is by tapping with our finger or marching using our whole body. You can imagine the range of areas where this will cause problems; beat competency not only affects listening, speech and learning, but also movement within sport, social skills with groups of people and simply whether we feel ‘in sync’ with those around us. Timing in a larger sense affects our awareness of sleep and wake cycles as well as global external rhythms of time such as the seasons.
Why then is it that we do not routinely test beat competency when assessing children and adults who are not achieving in a school or work environment? Perhaps because this type of work has mainly been in the field of research and does not immediately appear to be linked to education. This seems separate from the concerns of schools that will test reading levels, spelling and math ability but not often consider that deficits in these areas are a strong sign of a more fundamental temporal processing issue. Also there appears to have been a lack of screening tools that can be quickly used to check such areas as beat competency.
TAVS, the Test of Auditory and Visual Skills, allows for beat competency testing in the auditory and visual domains and gives clear norms that are a strong guide to rhythmic competency. Simply requiring the pressing of a left and right button in time to a steady beat heard in the headphones, the beat slowly increases until we can no longer match it. The TAVS software then slows the beat until we can pick it up again.
Beat competency is a skill that is seen to be separate from motor abilities making this an important fundamental test to consider when working with anyone with challenges with literacy, listening, concentration and speech development.
If you are a professional in the field and would like to learn more training to become qualified in the administration of TAVS please click here or call Advanced Brain Technologies at 801.622.5676
*Corriveau, K. H. and Goswami, U. (2009) Rhythmic motor entrainment in children with speech and language impairments: Tapping to the beat. Cortex Vol. 45 pp 119-130.