How Speech Therapy Can Help My Child’s Mumbling
If children have all the necessary and expected speech sounds, but are still not understood by others, it’s likely because they’re producing unintelligible speech. You may call it mumbling and it can be a barrier to your child’s independence. This is particularly an issue with younger children in preschool and elementary school. It can be frustrating for the child, as they never feel heard and are constantly asked to speak up or to repeat themselves. Improving their intelligibility can be a difficult challenge for parents and teachers, as well.
What Does “Mumble” Mean?
Before we dive into the topic of unintelligible speech, it is important to have a clear definition of what exactly mumbling is. According to the oxford dictionary, mumble means to “say something indistinctly and quietly, making it difficult for others to hear.”
Why Do People Produce Unintelligible Speech?
Multiple factors can contribute to why someone may evidence unintelligible speech. One cause could be if a child doesn’t fully open their mouth when they speak. Similarly, if their teeth are partially shut then the words and syllables can not fully be pronounced. Also, simply speaking too softly or looking at the ground can make it difficult for others to hear what is being said. Children who have speech sound disorders or fluency disorders can also produce unintelligible speech. =
How to Improve Intelligibility – Speech Therapy Tips for Parents
To help your child increase their intelligibility, they first must understand what they are doing. There are several ways you can bring mumbling to their attention. You can start by simply explaining the issues and demonstrating an example of yourself mumbling. Another method is playing the mumbling game. This is a fun game that allows a child to hear themselves intentionally mumbling. To play, you or your child keeps their mouth completely shut while the other person has to guess what is being said.
Another fun game to practice a child’s pacing is incorporating animals. Have them first speak like a cheetah, very very fast. Next, have them talk as they might assume a turtle speaks. Speaking slowly and deliberately is the goal here.
Lastly, you can include non-verbal cues that notify a child when they are being unintelligible. This non-verbal cue will notify them they are mumbling without interrupting their speech. These are just some of the methods to help with unintelligible speech, but there are many more.
Record the Child Speaking
A lot of times, the children don’t realize they’re mumbling, so record them speaking, and then play it back so they can hear it. When they hear what they sound like, they’ll realize their speech isn’t what they thought it was.
Tell Them What Mumbling Is
Explain the concept of mumbling, and why you’re aiming to fix it. Use audio and video examples to show what you mean. There are plenty of examples available on YouTube to demonstrate the concepts, and to show the difference between unintelligible and clear speech.
Teach Them How to Pace Speech
Sometimes, children produce unintelligible speech simply because they are speaking too fast, so the words jumble themselves together and make it difficult for others to understand what they are saying. It’s a good idea to work on some fluency exercises to help children learn how to speak at a pace that is more easily understood.
You can do this by teaching children to visualize their speech as a road where they are driving and the audience is along for the ride. Speaking too quickly means you’re driving so fast the scenery around you is nothing but a blur; but speaking too slowly means you’re never going to arrive at your destination. It’s important to speak quickly enough to maintain a slow and steady speed that allows the audience to soak up the scenery but gets them to the destination on time.
Go Over Non-Verbal Cues
Whether it’s putting your finger on your lips or placing your hand by your ear, work with your child to find a nonverbal cue you can use to remind them when they’re being unintelligible and need to increase the volume of their voice or change the pace of their speech. This allows them to remain alert, without interrupting what they’re trying to say, which can help avoid embarrassment, especially when in front of peers or larger groups of people.
Continue Practicing to Increase Intelligible Speech
Make sure students know when it is important to speak clearly, such as when they’re speaking to adults, or on the phone. Place them in various scenarios where they can practice speaking to learn how to do it using appropriate pace and good pronunciation.
Seeking Professional Help
If you are a parent and noticing that your child has unintelligible speech and your interventions are not resulting in any improvement then it may be time to seek professional help from an SLP. It also never hurts to receive a second opinion to see if your child’s unintelligible speech needs intervention. Luckily, VocoVision can provide speech-therapy services to your child from the comforts of your own home. If you would like to learn more, request a free consultation through the button below!