Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tip Tuesday! Articulation Tip: Teaching Students to Self-Monitor Speech Rate!

This is Part 2 of a previous post focusing on training slow speech rate.  Find Part 1 here.

When working on teaching a slow rate of speech, the 3rd and final step to making slow rate a habit, is for a child to self-monitor his/her own speech rate.  I call this skill "Listening to myself".  I do this by using three basic techniques we as SLPs tend to use when focusing on correct articulation production and/or fluency.

The key is to use the techniques that work for the child across all levels of speech complexity (word, phrase, sentence, reading (if a reader) and conversation level).  This means I may have to use a variety of cues to determine the cuing system (verbal, visual, tactile) that will work for this child.  I remember that I am scaffolding the child to use a skill I have already taught him/her: a slow speech rate.

3 Techniques for Self-Monitoring Slow Speech Rate:

1.  Using verbal cues:  Verbal cues are any words or phrases I have found that successfully cue the child to monitor and/or change his/her speech rate to a slower rate.  In this technique I include:

  • Types of Modeling: (including previously taught techniques in Part 1)

    • Over Exaggeration
    • Rhythm 
    • Tapping
    • Consistent use of slow rate by SLP

  • Verbal Reminders: 

    • Directives: (explain exactly what you want the child to do)  "Slow down", "Make sure you pause when speaking", "Take some breaths".
    • Feigning Misunderstanding: (pretend you can only understand the child when he/she uses a slow rate)  "I'm sorry, what did you say?", or "I can't understand you when you talk so quickly".
    • Descriptive Speech:  "Remember to use your turtle talk" or "Remember to snail sail your messages"
2.  Using Visual Cues:  I create visual cues that can be used independently or go along with the descriptive speech reminders above.  Below are some of the visuals I use to cue use of slow speech or to have the student evaluate his own speech rate and determine which pace he is using.  I like to laminate these and glue to a Popsicle sticks so they can be held up easily.  You can grab your FREE copy of these visual cues here!

3.  Paying Attention to Listener Cues:  The last thing I do is train the student to use visual cues from the listener to see if his/her speech is being understood.  If not, they need to slow their speech rate.  

  • Understand/Aware of "Confusion":  I want my student to know what it looks like when someone is confused by his/her speech production.  To do this I begin by using a number of emotions pictures (the ones I use for my children with ASD) and have the child label the pictures that represent when a listener is confused vs. understanding.  
    • Describe confusion:We discuss how confusion can be visualized at times by "facial muscles are strained-pinched eyebrows or raised eyebrows and enlarged eyes, shoulder shrug, open mouth, and even a long pause after you are finished talking".
    • Describe understanding:  We know someone is understanding us when they are "nodding their head in agreement, looking us in the eye, smiling, facial muscles relaxed, etc.".
  • Label Confusion/Understanding in SLP facial expressions:  Then we practice labeling confusion vs. understanding first in my facial expressions and what to do IF confusion is identified (a.k.a. slow down speech rate!).
  • Label Confusion/Understanding in peer's facial expressions:  Then we spend time labeling confusion vs. understanding in peer's facial expressions and what to do IF confusion is identified.
By the time student's master technique #3 they are beginning to use slow rate more often than not and do not require much more monitoring practice.  Then I move on to focusing on correct speech production.

Word of caution:  These techniques will not be come a habit unless consistently used and targeted until the child no longer needs scaffolding.  So remember, you may spend many weeks on some of these skills depending on the child's development, cognition, and monitoring skills.

Those are my techniques for teaching a child to "listen to him/herself".  What are yours?

Happy Talking!


  1. I was just doing a consult for a case that has been talking fast for years with no self monitoring. Don't know what else to try after years of rechecking and making recommendations. No self monitoring is frustrating!!

    1. Lisa your description of the child is telling me one of 3 things: 1) the child's current way of communicating is efficient "enough" in his daily communication environments, meaning he can still get his messages across and continues to get his needs and wants met while using this poor speech habits. If this is the case, (and I had a kiddo years ago like this...I was in private practice so I really needed the parents on board for this) ALL the child's the communication partners (in the school environment this would include you as the SLP, but also and MORE IMPORTANTLY, the teacher, special educator (if he sees one), OT, PT, even the principal and YES EVEN PEERS (pick nice peers to do this) if you can get the parents on board...EVEN BETTER) NEED to feign misunderstsanding...they need to cue the child EVERYTIME..."I'm sorry, you are talking so fast I can't understand you" or however you want them to cue the child...this forces the child to at least slow down his rate of speech (assuming the child can control his rate of speech....if he can't you have to go back to training how to use it in Part 1) to get what he wants. BUT for this technique to work...it must be consistent OVER several settings (so with various communication partners...in speech room, in classroom, on play ground, in PE, at lunch etc.) Truth be told...you don't get communication partners on board with this...you alone cannot fix it! 2) the child DOESN'T CARE about being understood...this is a problem you will NOT be able to fix...lack of motivation will certainly affect progress and you cannot change a person if they are not willing or motivated to change themselves. OR 3) cognitively the child is too delayed to understand the concept of not being understood. If so, you may not be able to change that situation either.
      So YES YES YES I hear and feel your frustration but if you may not be able to fix the child if he falls into category 2 or 3 AND/OR if you can't get communication partners on board. Sounds like an EXTREMELY difficult situation. I'm sorry you are having so much difficulty with that particular client.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing the tips.


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