One of the most fun things we do with our child clients is playing around with different types of talking. Bumpy talking! Squeaky talking! Low talking! Grumpy talking! Speech play always leads to giggles, but what does it do for our clients? When we look at the rationale for speech play, we see that a seemingly simple activity has complex effects.
Joy and play: For some children who stutter, speech has become stressful. Too much physical and emotional energy are spent trying to talk “just right” and eliminate mistakes. Playing with different ways of speaking can put the fun back into talking, and demonstrate that there are lots of “right” ways to speak.
Control of the speech system: To change their style, a child has to alter many aspects of speech: pitch, rate, volume, and positioning of the articulators. In doing this, they learn that they have choices in how they talk.
Desensitization to stuttering: We often include “bumpy talking” (repetitions), “stretchy talking” (prolongations) and “stuck talking” (blocks) on our list of choices. This gives the child a chance to see stuttering as one of many ways people talk. It also provides the opportunity to introduce helpful messages like, “sometimes people get stuck when they talk, and that’s okay.”
How to do it:
We introduce speech play in lots of different ways. Here are a few you might try:
* Ask the child to brainstorm different ideas with you. How do you talk when you’re mad? How would a mouse talk? If you’re doing teletherapy, you can add visual interest by creating a slide for each voice with a picture the child helps choose.
* Use a spinner tool (online or low-tech) to game-ify the activity by placing each type of speech on the wheel and letting the child spin it.
* Use puppets or other toys to assign each a different voice.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA, and services are also available online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder.
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