Do you get tons of referrals for students that mumble? Are you a teacher concerned about a student that mumbles?
I have had so many teachers bring to my attention students in their classrooms that they feel they need speech. When I screen them or observe them in the classroom, I realize that they are mumbling and it is not an articulation disorder.
What is the difference between mumbling and an articulation disorder?
Articulation Disorder = inability to produce sounds. ASHA has defined a speech disorder as
“Most children make some mistakes as they learn to say new words. A speech sound disorder occurs when mistakes continue past a certain age. Every sound has a different range of ages when the child should make the sound correctly. Speech sound disorders include problems with articulation (making sounds) and phonological processes (sound patterns).” They also indicated “An articulation disorder involves problems making sounds. Sounds can be substituted, left off, added or changed. These errors may make it hard for people to understand you.”
Mumbling = Student can say all sounds correctly but doesn’t articulate well in conversational speech. They may talk too quietly, leave sounds off, or slur words together. What can cause mumbling? A student may be talking too fast or not opening their mouth enough for articulators to move properly.
Who can implement strategies?
These strategies can be implemented in the CLASSROOM by the teacher in a 1:1 environment (take to a back table or work with a teaching assistant). An SLP can also quickly work on these strategies in through the RTI process and a classroom teacher would be expected to help carryover these strategies to ensure generalization and progress. Since mumbling isn’t an articulation disorder, it would be difficult for an SLP to take on this type of student for mandated services. I like to suggest for classroom teachers to try some first before I take the student out of class. I like to keep the students in the classroom as much as possible. I ask the teachers to prove that at least one or more of these strategies were ineffective in the classroom and then I will pull the student out of class to assist in the remediation process.
What are some strategies?
- Make the student aware: Do they know they are mumbling? Have a conversation about it! Explain what it is, how it can be difficult for communication partners to understand them, and how hard it can be for a teacher to know if you understand in the classroom.
- Identify on YOU: Can they identify if you are mumbling or not? Play a quick game and have them give thumbs up or down if you are speaking clearly or not. If they are NOT able to identify, keep drilling first incorrect then add correct into the game.
- Mumble on demand: Play a game and have the student read phrases and/or sentences and have them mumble on demand. Can they turn mumbling “on” and “off?” If so, they are capable of clear speech!
- Reduce rate of speech: help student slow down if the fast pace is what is causing them to mumble. Use a pacing chart or tap out words in sentences to help slow them down.
- Remove other motor tasks: if mumbling tends to occur when they are busy doing other motor tasks like walking, writing, or moving, remind them to stop those tasks before speaking.
- Mirror: show them how the mouth looks when it is speaking clearly or mumbled.
- Give a cue: You can tape a picture on the corner of their desk (turtle for slow speech, mouth for moving mouth appropriately), and you can just walk up to their desk, tap the visual before calling on the student to answer, and this will give them the reminder of their strategies. Don’t want to use a picture (too distracting, student too old for that), you can have a secret gesture just for that student (pull on ear, raise eyebrows, touch mouth) that will remind student before speaking of their strategies. You can also use the cue AFTER they speak mumbled to remind them to say it again but clearly.
Don’t forget to generalize! Students need to practice these strategies in the classroom. If you are pulling a student out to work on these strategies, make sure you communicate with the classroom teacher so you are both on the same page and using the same cues and lingo with the student to describe mumbling. You may need to push into a classroom to model it for a teacher.
BE PATIENT! This can take time! It may not be a quick fix! Think of habits that need to be broken! Practice makes perfect! I have several activities in my TpT store that can be used to practice clear speech! Click HERE, HERE, and HERE to check them out!