The Importance of Prosody

By Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP

Prosody refers to the set of variables in speech that affect how a message is communicated and understood. Prosody includes:

  • Rhythm – the flow of connected speech that comes from
    the combination of stressed words, unstressed words, and pauses in a phrase or sentence. A steady, unvarying rhythm makes speech sound unnatural and robotic.
  • Loudness – the amount of volume used when speaking. Whispering requires very little volume while shouting requires considerably more volume.
  • Stress – the force or emphasis used on a sound, syllable, or word in comparison to other sounds, syllables, or words. A stressed syllable in a word has more emphasis than other syllables in the word.
  • Speed – the pace of speech, or how fast or slow we speak. A fast rate of speech can have a negative effect on a listener’s ability to understand the message we are trying to communicate.
  • Pitch – the degree of highness or lowness in a person’s voice. Men usually have a low pitch while women and children tend to have higher-pitched voices.
  • Intonation – the rise and fall in pitch that occurs when we are speaking. We often use a rising pitch when we ask a yes/no question.Prosody helps us differentiate questions from sentences, but it also helps us to recognize a speaker’s emotional state (through his/her “tone” of voice), clarify communication (e.g., “I asked for the time – not a dime”), understand sarcasm… and the list goes on! Prosody (like language) is usually acquired naturally as children grow and listen to prosody being modeled around them. However some individuals such as those with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Autism, cochlear implants, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s may need assistance in learning to use prosody appropriately.


Here are some activities you can use to work on prosody:

  • Read or Tell Stories – Using character voices gives you an opportunity to try lower pitches, higher pitches, louder voices, and softer voices. For example, in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, use a low, loud voice for Papa Bear and a high, soft voice for Baby Bear.
  • Sing Songs or Tell Rhymes – Music and rhymes are great ways to work on rhythm. In addition, if you sing a song that repeats itself (such as The Song That Never Ends or Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends) you can practice loudness, speed, and pitch by singing the verses softer, louder, slower, faster, higher, or lower.
  • Play a Game of “Copycat” – Have your child imitate phrases or sentences that you say or read from a newspaper (or other type of written material). Say or read the phrases/sentences using different intonation and stress patterns.
  • Ask and Answer “WH” Questions – Say a simple sentence such as: “Jimmy washed his dog.” Then ask simple “WH” questions that can be answered by repeating
    the sentence while stressing different words in the sentence. For example, “Who washed his dog?” “Jimmy washed his dog.” “What did Jimmy do to his dog?” “Jimmy washed his dog.” “What did Jimmy wash?” “Jimmy washed his dog.”
  • “What Does It Mean?” – Think of a simple sentence such as: “I didn’t take your pencil.” Have your child think about and describe how the meaning changes when different words in the sentence are stressed. For example, if I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that suggests that someone else did. If I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that implies that I did something else to your pencil. If I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that indicates that I took someone else’s pencil. And if I said “I didn’t take your pencil,” that hints that I took something else that belonged to you.

Articulation: When Should I Worry If My Child is Behind?

bubblesBy Katharine F. Bedsole, M.S., CCC-SLP

Developing speech and language skills is a difficult task. It is natural for young children to make mistakes in the process of learning to speak. Most children eventually drop errors in their speech and develop normal speech patterns. Some children continue to make errors beyond the age when other children have mastered those sounds.

It may be time to show concern if you observe one or more of the following:

  1. Family members or friends have a hard time understanding your child.
  2. A child demonstrates frustration because you don’t understand his/her speech.
  3. Your child shows no signs of frustration when trying to communicate, but you do not understand his/her speech.

    This is the time to seek a professional’s opinion. Direct questions about your child’s speech development to a local speech-language pathologist (SLP). To find an SLP in your area, visit A certified SLP administers a standardized test comparing your child’s skills to other children his/her age. These test results, in addition to other information, determine whether your child requires speech therapy.

The chart below gives general guidelines of sound mastery. The guidelines allow for the different developmental speech milestones that children experience.

90% of Children Have Mastered These Sounds…By Age


p, d, m, w, h, n…….2 years old
t, b, k, g……………….3 years old
f, v, y…………………..4 to 5 years old
s, z, j, l, r, sh, ch, th, blends……5 to 7 years old

Apps for Students with Communication Deficits

boy in grass call by phone

By Clint M. Johnson, M.A., CCC-SLP and Julie A. Daymut, M.A., CCC-SLP

Apps are applications, or software programs, that can run on a variety of devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Some Apps are free, and some are for purchase. The user simply downloads an App to his/her device through an online store or marketplace. Many Apps are educational in nature and offer speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and parents/caregivers multiple options for targeting communication skills. The lists below highlight some of the different kinds of Apps for speech/language goals. Keep in mind that there are thousands of Apps, so this list is just an overview – Be sure to check often for updates to Apps and new Apps!


• Practice sounds in isolation or at syllable, word, phrase, or sentence levels • Identify phoneme placement (beginning, middle, or end of a word)
• Target phonological processes
• Practice tongue twisters

Assistive Technology

• Touch buttons to indicate basic communication needs
• Create pictures, flashcards, storyboards, or visual schedules
• Use pre-loaded pictures for vocabulary, including searches by category
• Add your own pictures
• Use pre-loaded verbal messages; record and store personalized verbal messages • Store sequenced messages
• Use text-to-speech or speech-to-text functions


• Track fluent and disfluent speech
• Track avoidance behaviors
• Give a percentage for stuttering moments



• Answer/generate WH questions – Who? What? When? Where? Why?

• Create/record sentences and stories

• Identify different grammar forms, such as nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives

• Move objects on the screen to work on basic concept words, such as next to, above, below, before

• Find pictures that go together or choose an item that doesn’t belong • Identify an object by its function, such as barking goes with… dog

Sign Language

• Learn/review American Sign Language (ASL) signs • Take a quiz on signs
• Watch videos of signs

Social Skills

• Review/build Social Stories (short stories to help an individual understand appropriate behaviors for social situations)


• Show decibel (dB) (loudness) levels
• Calculate s/z ratio (sustaining the /s/ sound compared to sustaining the /z/ sound)