Slowing Down Speech
Children sometimes need to learn to slow down their speech to make it easier to understand. When children talk too quickly their words can get pushed together or they don’t give themselves time to say the sounds properly.
Often the first step is to create awareness. Talk about and demonstrate different rates of speech in a way that is meaningful for your child. One way to do this is to use a visual like this Slowing Down Visual. The strips move from a sloth to a turtle to a boy walking a dog to a horse and finally to a cheetah. One strip only shows three animals. This can help with younger children. For older children the numbers 1 to 5 might be more appropriate. The boy walking the dog or the number 3 speed would represent a good easy normal rate. Feel free to change any of the pictures so they make sense to you and your child.
Demonstrate how fast a sloth talks or try to talk as fast as a horse or a cheetah. Try talking so fast that your child can’t understand what you are saying. Let them know that you are aiming for a speed that is just right. Something in the middle. Play a game where you take turns talking and have the other person say how fast you were going. By practicing different rates of talking you are giving your child awareness and control.
If a child needs more than just awareness to slow down try Pacing. Once way to pace is to “Count the words on your fingers”. This is where you hold up a finger for each word that you say. Longer words can use two or more fingers. Other ways to pace are to have him tap his hand on the table or on his leg or to tap his finger on a pacing strip such as this Speech Dots Pacing Strip.
To practice, start with a structured activity such as looking at a book. You would say a short sentence about something you see. “I see a big dog”. Say the sentence slowly using one of the pacing methods. Now have your child take a turn. Help him to count out his fingers or tap. Do whichever works best. It doesn’t have to be exactly one finger or tap for each word, as long as your child is slowing down and putting some space between the words. Holding up fingers can be a challenging fine motor task for little ones. Continue to practice taking turns counting or tapping out the words until your child has the idea.
Now when your child is having a hard time telling you something because he is going too fast, try telling him to “use your fingers” or “tap out the words” or tell him that you can’t understand cheetahs try talking like a dog.
Parents almost always understand their child better than anyone else. Sometimes you might have to ask yourself if most other people would understand what your child tried to say. If they wouldn’t then it’s a good idea to work on slowing down to a point where they would.
The other powerful way to help children to slow down is to slow down yourself. Children naturally copy what they hear. Try pacing out your own words to help him slow down. Another great way to slow down a conversation is to take a short pause before answering back. Pause for a couple of seconds before saying something back to your child.