“Pencil Talking” for Rate Control

By Pam Marshalla

Q: Do you have any suggestions for slowing the rate of speech in an elementary school child?

Rate is all about the number of syllables produced per unit of time.  Therefore focus on syllables.  This is what I do.  I call it “Pencil Talking”––

The child and I each hold a pencil with a good eraser.  We engage in general conversation, or we talk about speech.  We tap our erasers on the table to mark each syllable as we talk.

I teach the client how to speed up and slow down in order to find his personal “speed limit.”  The speed limit is the point where he begins to speak so fast that articulation breakdown occurs.  I teach the client to recognize this point.  We each purposefully go too fast so that our articulation does fall apart, and then we learn to approach that speed but hold back from it so that clarity is maintained.

Then there is a lot of discussion about the reason for holding back and staying clear.

When the client does go too fast in conversation with me, I don’t tell him to slow down.  Instead, I say things that let him know that he is being unclear. I say, “I didn’t understand any of that,” “What did you say?” or “Huh?”

I also teach the client to read the facial expressions that other might use when they don’t understand him: They might look blank, or puzzled, or they might smile and nod inappropriately.

I also consult with others to get them to stop helping the child slow down.  I say, “Don’t tell him to slow down any more.”  Instead say, “I didn’t understand that.”  Then I teach these significant others to wait for the client to repair his speech by himself.

Controlling rate is an important part of carryover. See Carryover Techniques in Articulation and Phonological Therapy in the chapter on conversation for other ideas.

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