Our speech therapist has shared with us that Gess' rate of speech will be her worst enemy. This child has a wonderful vocabulary and can read at her current grade level. What she really struggles with is speech intelligibility and most of that is due to the fact that she just talks too fast. Of course there are other factors that makes it hard for her to understand, but the number one factor is the rate of her speech.
In order to fix this I found out that I needed to work on my own rate of speech as well hers. Apparently, do what I say (speak slowly) not as I do (speak quickly) doesn't work very well. While we don't consider our speech fast, to a child with special needs, it really is. They have trouble discerning every sound we make when we talk at our normal rate and when they try to mimic our rate they can't properly express the sound properly.
Now before working with Gess I need to start working on myself. Speaking slowly and softly to your child will do a couple of things. First it imitates what we want from them; slow, consistent, and intelligible words. Secondly it sets the mood for a calm conversation. The slow, smooth tone of your voice will calm the child to make it easier for them to slow down. While I used to do this when reading a book with Gess, I never thought about doing it with every day conversations. I am doing it now, or at least trying to. It actually is very awkward to slow down and properly pronounce every single sound, each s, t, n, etc gets emphasis. Nothing is left out.
Now that Gess hears it better she is working to towards saying it better. I have already seen her use the cues in therapy in regular conversation. When she stumbles on a word sort of stuttering to get it out she gestures as a conductor leading an orchestra to remind her to smoothly let the word out. It usually works fairly well. We also emphasize the vowel in a word. By holding out the vowel it makes the consonant transitions smoother and intelligibility easier. Clock is Clooock. Twist is Twiiiist, all the while waving your hand in a wave to remind you to smooth it all together. We also remind her to let out a short puff of air while doing it. Those constant transitions are tricky.
Now when we talk to Gess things are becoming slower. It's hard for me to do this during school. It takes a long time to read three pages of text at this slower rate, but I keep reminding myself that the rate is the most important part for her to get. Without intelligibility her reading won't help her independence. Without intelligibility her math won't help her make a transaction on her own. Intelligibility is key, so slowing down is essential.
The younger you start working on the rate of speech, the better. The hardest part for us is that Gess has about 12 years of habits to overcome, but she is trying. She can do it but it will take a lot of work and effort on our part.