Practicing the three P’s: Prosody, Pace, Pause
“goooooodMORNING my SWEET pea!”
According to Websters Dictionary, prosody is “The rhythmic and intonational aspect of language” or “The rhythm and pattern of sounds of poetry and language”. If the greeting above could show prosody on paper, that is how it would look…. I tried.
My son lights up when I greet him with full of prosody and ‘color’ in my voice. When something is new, exciting, or even upsetting, I make sure to use appropriate prosody, adding emotion to my voice. From my years of experience, I have found that newborns, infants and younger toddlers respond best to a sing-song type of rhythm when I talk—they pay attention and they focus in. These little ones show interest, imitate, and are motivated to listen, when I show prosody, speak at a slower pace, and frequently pause.
Prosody is important to our children's every day interactions in their relationships with family members, peers, teachers; and later in adult life this might include our supervisor, our co-workers, or professors. Have you listened to someone talk in a passive, robotic-like way? We lose focus and attention when an individual lacks appropriate prosody. As a speech-language pathologist and a new mother, I want to do my best to prevent this from occurring by modeling prosody when suitable. Start exposing your little one to appropriate prosody as early as one month of age. Exaggerate significant verbs and nouns, sing repetitive songs such as “Wheels on the bus” and read simple books that focus on key words and phrases. While singing and reading, stay conscious of how you are using your voice when the car goes “up” or when the cow says “moo”. Put COLOR into your voice and remind yourself to fluctuate and stress certain words and sounds. For example, when the car goes “up” you can gradually ascend your voice and then put stress on the last word such as “up, up, uP, UP, UP!!
Pace your words and go slow. According to It Takes Two to Talk by Jan Pepper and Elaine Weitzman, slowing down your speech when talking with your child gives them time to understand what you’re saying. I have often encountered parents who talk really fast and forget their audience. Your little one is processing speech and language at a very different rate than you are, and if you can slow down a bit during conversations and pace your words, they may be able to “catch” all of what you are saying and process more clearly. When speaking at a slower rate, you have more opportunities to emphasize specific words, giving your little one a better chance to hear the word exactly the way it should sound, with all the right vowels and consonants in place. By pacing your words and slowing down while explaining something familiar or unfamiliar, you are also modeling appropriate breath support which is important during speech and language.
Pause when you can. Imagine you are in the middle of story time explaining how the monkey fell in the basket. You are talking and talking and talking and you finally get to how the monkey fell in. Did you give your little one the opportunity to make a guess, dispute the details, or even come up with his very own version? If you pause along the way, you are opening the door to a wide array of possibilities. Your child may imitate a word or a phrase, make a request, or exclaim a new concept. By pausing during interactions, conversations, or statements, you are also modeling conversational turn-taking skills.
The three P's serves as a practical reminder towards how we can aid our children's speech and language development. Prosody, Pace, Pause can help your child become more expressive, receptive, and socially appropriate during conversations, small talk, and just everyday interactions. You don’t have to walk around all day “singing and songing” (yes I think I just created that word)…. Just add a little color to your voice, slow down, and then wait for it!
written by: Nahal A. Papehn MS CCC-SLP