- Autism & Developmental Services
Written By: Michelle E. Sisto, MS CCC-SLP TSSLD CAS
For many kiddos, multisyllabic words can pose a really big challenge during spontaneous speech. Difficulty producing these words can cause frustrations, when a child feels they can not effectively express their thoughts and ideas and they are not being understood. As these children grow and develop, learning multisyllabic words will play a vital role in reading, spelling, and comprehension.
As with most speech therapy targets, speech and language skills build upon each other. If the foundational skills are not there, it is impossible to acquire the more complex and later developing skills. Before conquering multisyllabic words, children need to master the production of single syllable words.
After this is mastered, multisyllabic targets need to be selected for the child to focus on. The targets should begin at 2-syllables and slowly grow in length, as the child masters more syllables. The speech therapist and family can decide on what targets the child should begin working on and how the targets should be presented.
One key strategy for working on learning multisyllabic words is chunking the words. This breaks down longer words into smaller chunks before having the child conquer the entire word. This allows children to learn each chunk, by itself, to help them learn and use different sound combinations.
Eventually, the smaller chunks will be combined for the child to produce the entire word. This strategy helps them be more confident and less overwhelmed. Additionally, it helps children with word recognition. Teaching this strategy helps children use chunking, across all multisyllabic words, to better generalize and master this skill.
A strategy that pairs well with chunking is pacing. Cueing is extremely useful for children, especially those who rush through activities and are stumbling across these words. Pacing helps children slow themselves down and break the longer words into chunks that are more meaningful. A pacing board is used to support children with this idea.
They can come in different shapes and sizes. Some ways to present pacing boards are using “smash mats” that have a set amount of circles that correspond with the number of syllables in the target word. Children then smash small balls of play doh, on each circle, as they produce each chunk of the target word. Another way to present a pacing board is to use tap lights for children to tap each time they say a chunk, which is reinforced as each light gets turned on.
Another fun way to teach multisyllabic words is using blocks! This looks like starting with a multisyllabic target. For each syllable, the child can add a block to the block tower. Each block represents a chunk and segment of the multisyllabic word.
The child can count how many blocks they have in the tower to determine how many syllables in the word they are working on. This can be done where the child places blocks on the tower as they say each chunk or where the child takes blocks off of the tower, while producing each chunk.
Lastly, a multimodal approach is always successful when it comes to teaching anything, but specifically multisyllabic words. Incorporating movements helps make any activity fun and engaging. For multisyllabic words, children can clap and/or jump along with each chunk or segment to count out syllables and break the word up into more meaningful pieces.
Adults can also set up hula hoops on the floor, having children jump into each hoop while saying each chunk of the multisyllabic word. This helps with pacing and breaking up the word to later combine all the chunks together for the ultimate success.
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