Pencil Talking (for Connected Speech)

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I have a 9-year-old boy on my caseload who may have a mild dysarthria. He passes an articulation test but his connected speech is unintelligible. I’ve read all your posts that relate to this, and I understand the goals of elocution to target. Do you have a format that works best for teaching elocution? Should I start with lists of sentences, children’s poetry, or do you have another route or format to

Great question! The absolute best way to do this is to work in conversation. You can use sentences, paragraphs, poems, song lyrics, and jokes (jokes the best idea!) as a jumping off point.  But your best work has to be done in conversation.

I use what I call “pencil talking,” where the kid and I tap out each syllable with the eraser against the table. We each tap out every syllable we speak as we talk, using this to help us punch out each syllable. The client therefore engages in conversation because this is where he has to learn this control.

He can talk about anything- what he doesn’t like, the homework he hates doing, the teachers who bug him the most, the way his brothers and sisters drive him crazy- these are the things he may open up about. Or talk about his passions and pursuits.

The key to conversation is to help the child (especially boys) not feel on the spot. Give him something to do with his hands – like drawing while talking, or fiddling with a transformer, or putting a puzzle together. Research shows that males talk more opening when they don’t have to look at the other person and when they are working with their hands.

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