Interview with Dania Santiago, MA, CCC-SLP of Kids Developmental Clinic



Ingrid sat down with Dania Santiago, speech therapist with Kids Developmental Clinic – one of the Harrison Center for Music Therapy’s community partners – to ask her about her journey to speech therapy and her experience co-treating with music therapists. A transcript of their interview is provided below.


INGRID: Good morning! My name is Ingrid Moeller and I’m a music therapist with the Harrison Center for Music Therapy and I am joined this morning by my wonderful colleague, Dania Santiago, who works for Kids Developmental Clinic, the southwest office. Dania is a speech therapist and she and I have had the opportunity to collaborate several times over the past couple years and it’s been so wonderful that I thought it would be great to share that experience with you guys. So welcome Dania, thank you so much.


DANIA: Good morning, you’re welcome.


DANIA: Well speech therapy covers a lot of areas, like I can work with sound production, which is articulation, that means how do you produce the sounds when you’re talking and how can you be understood when you’re talking. It also works with language comprehension or language use in different modalities. It also targets fluency which is typically known as stuttering. It also covers feeding issues and oral motor difficulties. It also works with kids that have auditory difficulties and it also works with patients that have voice difficulties as well.


INGRID: Okay, so it’s very broad, just like music therapy it sounds like.


DANIA: We can work with adults and kids and we can work with them in different settings such as hospitals, private clinics, homes, and different types of entities depending on what you are specialized and interested in.


INGRID: Okay, and I know there are speech therapists in schools and all that as well.


DANIA: I’ve always been devoted to children, I just enjoy them really a lot. So I haven’t worked with adults since I graduated, I’ve been completely about pediatric population since I started my career.


DANIA: Um, so like I said you might not know a lot of the behind the scenes, but I’ve always been in the therapy world, participating myself. I never had speech issues but I was also sharing with them consistently so I’m when I decided to change my gears from Peds to the therapy world I picked speech therapy because I just feel like it’s more natural for me.


I And would you mind sharing the anecdote with me about what your mother said about your speaking?


D Oh yes. According to family and friends, I was called the little old lady, little gejita in Spanish, because I, according to them, I never used isolated words, so I was quite a talker, so there I am.


INGRID: So speech therapy was natural.


DANIA: Yeah, it was a natural thing so I joined the speech therapy world.


DANIA: Well, music is really natural for everybody, I mean it’s a natural thing. And then I think that it triggers similar areas in the brain so when you bring music in, it’s something that it’s familiar, it’s relaxing, it’s more typical so kids enjoy it, we enjoy it, and I just see that they just click faster for the responses that I need for them to present. So it’s a natural thing that helps me and helps you and the things we want to accomplish with the children.


INGRID: Yeah, I see a lot of the same things.


DANIA: I just, I’m always amazed by the fact that when I’m working with you, because of the knowledge that you have about your specialty, you get to bring music in a different way to the sessions. Like I can do a lot of musical activities in my session, but I cannot bring to my treatment session the knowledge that you have in terms of like how to use a beat or how to use an instrument or how to use certain musical techniques to prompt attention skills, to prompt better imitation, faster recalling, and faster self-generated responses when I’m working with the kids.


INGRID: Yeah, to the music component really adds that attention detail.


DANIA: The auditory cue that the music brings to the treatment it’s one of the best cues that I can describe because it’s natural and it’s really, it brings me faster to the response that I’m looking for for most of my kids that are involved in that type of treatment.


DANIA: For me, it’s always when I get a first word or when I get a mom coming to me and saying “hey, he called me Mama for the first time,” or he called Daddy for the first time,” or “he’s doing this or doing that,” I mean that makes my day. And with you, oh my god, there’s a lot of moments. But I’ll always remember this particular client that we know. We did not treat him together but we referred him to music therapy and when he first started, he didn’t have any functional communication that was spontaneous with somebody that wasn’t a caregiver. So on the outside world he probably was not able to communicate functionally and effectively. And with music therapy, I saw him gain the ability to self-generate responses, you know, maybe not in a complete sentence like you and I can do, but that’s okay because we got isolate words for functional self-generated responses and that is functional and that is helpful for anybody who needs to say what do I want or what do I need. So, it was always surprising to get updates from you and it was amazing to see the final results with him.


INGRID: Yeah. And I can say he’s definitely one of the highlights in my career as well just watching that generation of spontaneous speech with the use of musical cueing, it was really fascinating and wonderful to watch.


INGRID: So thank you so much Dania, I really appreciate your time with us this morning. And again, Dania is a phenomenal speech therapist, works with the Kids Developmental Clinic, and she and I get to collaborate on several of our joint clients.


DANIA: I love my favorite excellent music therapist too!