Repair Strategies for Speech Sounds

It is important to teach children to know what to do when they are having difficulty making themselves understood.  The first step is to help them know that you didn’t understand what they said. This is why it is so important to not “pretended” to understand. If a child doesn’t realize that what they said was hard to understand they won’t be motivated to say it differently. 

For young children use lots of body language, shrug your shoulders, have a puzzled look on your face and tell them simply, “I don’t know”, “What?”, “I don’t understand” and then ask them to please say it again.  Saying it again is the biggest repair strategy. Once you know what they were trying to say, model for them what they needed to do to make the word or sentence more understandable, say it slower and model back good speech sounds.  

When children are a bit older you can add simple visuals. Visuals help a child to understand what they need to do and can be a nice way to prompt children to do something without having to tell them with words. Just point to the picture when needed.  

My first visual helps a child to first judge if they were understood and then to Say it Again with the repair strategy of Slowing Down shown with a turtle picture.

This next visual uses idea uses the idea of Count the Words as a way for children to slow down. I explain how to use your fingers to slow down here: Speaking Slowly and Clearly

This last visual adds in saying it Louder.  Some children will become very quiet when they are having a hard time making themselves understood and need this additional reminder.

Use whichever would be the most helpful. Some children are plenty loud enough on their own!

To help children understand about appropriate volume this visual can help.

Visual for voice volume

Older children who are still having difficulty making themselves understood can learn other Repair Strategies.  Below are the most common ones to try.  

When people can’t understand me I can:

  • Say it again.
  • Say it louder – if needed.
  • Slow down the word or the whole sentence.
  • Break the word down into parts or break the sentence into parts.
  • Tell them the first letter of the word.
  • Describe the word.
  • Use a different word.
  • Write it out.
  • Decrease anything that makes it hard for them to listen: background noise, distractions etc.

Practice these until your child can use them independently. Some will work better than others and be more useful in certain situations.  

I hope these ideas help.  Let me know if you have any questions. You can reach me at  

Madison Garvi – SLPatHome