Turtle Talking vs Racehorse Talking
Your child may speak very quickly and this may be making it more difficult for them to speak fluently. It is important to make your child aware of the difference between slow and fast speech and that they realise that slowing down can help their fluency. However, it is not advisable to stop your child when they are speaking and tell them to slow down as this puts even more pressure on your child to speak fluently and may make the problem worse.
The Turtle vs Racehorse talking game is a useful, fun way to practice fast vs slow talking. You can take turns with your child and their siblings talking like a racehorse or a turtle. It is often a good idea to use picture cards. Each person can turn over a card and say what they have got e.g. “I’ve got a cheeseburger”. Everybody can decide together if the person talked fast like a racehorse or slow like a turtle and a tally can be made. The goal is to talk slow like a turtle so the child who does this will get the highest score.
Pacing Practice & Generalisation Strategies
The Turtle Talk app can be used to help your child practise pacing their rate of speech. Unlike traditional pacing boards, Turtle Talk has fun visual cues to help your child know how to effectively pace their speech and when to say the next word. Use the in-built pacing board to pace your own speech and ask your child a conversation starter question. Continue to give a model during the conversation by waiting for the turtle to fill with colour and saying one syllable/word as you touch each turtle.
Praise your child when they say a sentence slowly when using the Turtle Talk app and also praise them if you notice them successfully transferring the pacing strategy to everyday taking without using the app e.g. “That was lovely turtle-talking”. This is an effective way of making them aware of talking more slowly without putting pressure on them. If your child says something very quickly, it may be useful to sometimes remind them to speak more slowly e.g. “That was a bit like a race-horse. Can you try saying that a bit more like a turtle?”
If your child is in the company of adults who speak particularly quickly, they may try to speak as quickly and this may make their talking less fluent. It is important to try to be a good model for your child and to remember to slow down your own rate of speech.
It is a good idea to set aside 5-10 minutes of your time to spend alone with your child. During this time you can do an activity together which does not focus on speaking such as playing a puzzle or a game.You can talk about what you are doing or what your child is doing. In this way, you are not putting pressure on your child to talk and their talking will be more spontaneous.
Family Turn-Taking Games
It is a good idea for all the family to play turn-taking games. The games should have the following rules:
1) one person speaks at a time
2) everybody takes a turn to speak
3) nobody makes a judgement about what the other person says
Turn-taking games teach your child rules that make fluency easier and also teach the family patterns of interactions that are helpful for communication in any environment. It will be easier for your child to communicate in an environment where they do not have to compete for talking time, where there are no interruptions and where they feel their input is valued.
Example Game: The Microphone Game
In the microphone game, only the person who has the microphone can talk. This encourages fair turn-taking without interruptions and your child also has more time to think about what they want to say. A topic can be set e.g. my favourite film. However it is sometimes better if the topic is less contrived. You could talk about something that has just happened that day such as a trip to the cinema or another topic you feel that your child will be eager to talk about.
It would be a good idea to practice turn-taking at the dinner table, without the support of the microphone.You can remind and encourage your child and their siblings to listen, wait and take their turn when the other person has finished speaking. Praise your child and their siblings when they show good turn-taking independently e.g. “That was really good turn-taking. Well Done!”
Your child may have a lot of things to say and may start speaking before they have fully thought about what they want to say. This can make their speech less fluent. Encourage your child to have some thinking time before they speak. This can be done by modelling thinking time e.g. taking pauses in your own speech before talking or answering a question.You might also like to try a game in which you, your child and other family members or siblings take turns choosing a picture card and then take time to think before describing what is on the picture.
Low self-confidence and self-esteem can have a negative impact on your child’s fluency and so it is important that the child has opportunities for positive experiences. Children appreciate and respond well to praise and the same is true for adults. As a parent you probably already praise your child but try to increase the amount of specific praise.
Specific praise is where you praise the child for something and make it obvious why they are being praised e.g. “I saw you helping your brother. That was really kind”. You could also praise your child for any help they might give around the house e.g. Thank you for helping me dry the dishes. That was very helpful” or for showing good turn-taking in games e.g. “That was really good turn-taking”. Specific praise can boost your child’s confidence much more than general praise.
Developing An Open Attitude To Stammering
Your child may have had some negative speaking experiences as a result of their stammering/stuttering. They may have quite negative emotions about their difficulty speaking fluently and be worried in certain speaking situations or unhappy because of teasing by classmates. It is important to be open about the child’s stammer and to speak to your child about it if you feel they are ready to do so.
Your child needs to understand that it is okay if their talking is ‘bumpy’ at times. It is good to use the words ‘smooth talking’ and ‘bumpy talking’ rather than ‘good talking’ and ‘bad talking’ as it is very important not to be negative. Your child can be praised when their talking is ‘smooth’ e.g. “That was some lovely smooth talking”. You can also sometimes praise your child if they are trying to say something and are struggling e.g. “That was a little bumpy but it was a really good try.” This would however be more appropriate in a structured activity as it’s important not to put pressure on your child to speak fluently.
Junk Thoughts vs Cool Thoughts
If your child is anxious or worried about their talking, it can have a negative impact on their fluency. It is good to find out how your child is feeling and to try to help them feel more positively. This can be done by discussing ‘junk thoughts’ and ‘cool thoughts’. You can give an example of a junk thought to your child e.g. “I can’t go outside today because it’s raining.” You can then show your child how you can make that junk thought into a cool thought e.g. “I can stay inside and watch TV instead.”
Ask your child to think of some junk thoughts and work on making them into cool thoughts together. Junk thoughts may be related to general things or to the child’s talking. If a child is especially anxious about talking they may have a junk thought such as “I can’t say it”. You can encourage your child to make this a cool thought by suggesting something more positive such as “I can try and if I can’t, it’s okay”. Ask your child how they feel when they have junk thoughts and have a chat about how junk thoughts can make us feel bad and make our talking bumpy.