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Sometimes, children have all the sounds they need in their verbal inventory, but they still can’t be understood when they speak because they mumble. And their compromised intelligibility can have a significant negative impact on their lives, inside and outside the classroom.

What Causes Mumbling?

There’s a difference between articulation disorders in general and mumbling. An articulation disorder is the result of an inability to produce sounds. When a child mumbles, they are capable of producing all their sounds correctly, but they fail to articulate well in conversational speech. They may talk too quickly, omit certain sounds or slur their words together. Or, they may be not be opening their mouths enough for articulators to move properly.

How to Help

To overcome mumbling, try following these guidelines:

  • Record children when they mumble. Play the audio back to them in a one-on-one environment. This will help them hear what they sound like to others. Awareness is an important first step to a solution.
  • Have a conversation. Talk with a child, without opening your mouth. Explain to them this is what they sound like when they mumble. Then, have them “mumble on demand.” Can they turn their mumbling on and off? If so, they are capable of clear speech.
  • Play a mumbling game. Use this packet to download the resources for Turtle Speech. When you play this game, talk about which animal – a slug, a turtle or a cheetah – is the fastest. Pick a sentence and say it as fast as you can. This is Cheetah Speech. Then, say it as slowly as you can. This is Slug Speech. Finally, say it slowly and clearly. This is Turtle Speech – and it’s just right!
  • Designate a nonverbal clue. It will be used to alert children when they are mumbling, without interrupting or embarrassing them. You might cup your hand to your ear, or point to your lip.
  • Eliminate other motor tasks. If mumbling tends to occur when a child is busy doing other things, such as walking or writing, remind them to stop these tasks before they speak.
  • Use a mirror. Show kids how their mouth looks when they are mumbling, versus speaking clearly.
  • Be patient. It can take time for mumbling, like any habit, to be broken. Be patient and persistent. Practice makes perfect!

As you build your SLP resources and realize your ongoing career goals, consider working with a clinical manager from Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services. We’re school-based therapists ourselves, so we know what it takes to create a rewarding career and help students reach their full potential, every day. Contact us today so we can tell you more!

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