Slow Down and Smell the Daisies...
Reducing the rate of a client can be one of the most challenging vocal behaviors to
remediate (Markus 11/29/99). Rate itself, as a suprasegmental aspect of speech
production, is difficult to assess. Colton and Casper note that excessively fast rates (as
well as unusually slow speaking rates) can be "suggestive of neurological involvement
or may simply be a reflection of personality" (225). Moya Andrews points out that our
emotional states change the rate of our speech in differing ways (74). Studies have
shown that listeners may even misperceive those with rapid rates of speech as angry or
At any rate, our rates of speech help to make us unique, making your voice distinctive
from other speakers. Yet at times, a rapid speech rate can point to accompanying
vocally abusive behaviors, which can result in adverse effects. Those who speak very
quickly are often the ones who live "life in the fast lane", so to speak. This population
includes those with hyperfunctional vocal fold disorder (Stemple, et al. 205), excessive
laryngeal tension, extrinsic muscle tension, as well as those who perform hard voice
onset. People presenting with these types of voice disorders may need therapy to slow
down their speaking rate to a more normal speed. The following is a synopsis of some
techniques that may be used in reducing rate.
The first method, the "unhinging" method (a.k.a. the Open Mouth Technique) can be
instrumental in a number of ways. This technique can be quite useful with someone
who has tension in the external muscles and who is hyperfunctional. Once the muscles
of the jaw release, other muscles will, in theory, release as well. This technique may
also be used for clients with an excessively fast rate. When using this method, the
clients are instructed to open their mouths, allowing an "unhinging" of the jaw. The
actual motor act of articulation is slowed down; therefore, the client’s rate will drop as a
Another technique that could be used with clients with a rapid speaking rate is the
Chewing Technique. This technique works in the same way as the "unhinging" method,
or Open Mouth Technique, in that it slows down the actual motor act of speech
articulation; therefore, will have definitive effects on rate. The client is asked to act as if
they are "chewing" their words. The clinician then "weans" the client off this type of
speech toward a more normal, slower speech.
Another method of reducing rate is the use of a metronome that ticks at different
speeds. The metronome is an effective facilitator of reduced speaking rate in that it
uses rhythm to induce a new "speaking rhythm". It also is dynamic in that the
metronome can be decreased incrementally as the client is able to match the speed of
the ticking over various sessions. This also makes for a good data measurement tool in
that the client’s progress can be charted in terms of the speed of the metronome.
A pacing board is something that the client runs his or her hand over while speaking. It
is useful in reducing rate because it reminds the client to focus on slowing down. The
clinician and client can create and adapt pacing boards to the particular client’s needs.
For example, the client may start with an utterance they use frequently, such as "Honey,
when is dinner going to be ready?" printed on their board. There may be a strip of velcro
along the bottom of the board, creating a sort of resistance for the client when running
his or her hand along the board. This is used in therapy sessions until a more
appropriate speaking rate is established. A good means of ensuring carry-over for this
technique is to create a "pacing reminder" for the client’s daily use. Here again the
client’s individual needs should be taken into consideration. For example, a client may
wear a piece of unusual jewelry as a pacing reminder. In our case, we developed a
velcro watch band that the client could run his finger over during speech. This proved to
be very effective in reducing rate.
Other facilitating techniques for reducing rate involve establishing good abdominal
breathing, speaking "on the breath", and using continuous phonation during speech.
Relaxation techniques are also very helpful with these clients, who usually present with
a number of other factors, such as stress and personality characteristics that make them
high-risk candidates for other voice disorders.
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Keep reading for an example of a therapy session utilizing these
Mr. Gonzalez came into DSHS today concerned about his fast speech rate. He has been employed
as an auctioneer for the past 10 years and is in the process of changing occupations. He hopes to
gain employment as a telephone sex therapist and feels that his fast speaking rate lessens his
chance of being hired for this position. He is an energetic, 33-year old single man, who feels that
slowing his speech rate may also help him slow down his hectic lifestyle. He came to the DSHS to
assess his rate and determine a means of slowing him down.
Mr. Gonzalez’s objective data for today was as follows:
|Measures:||Findings:||f0||97 Hz (male norm 100-150 Hz)
||words per minute||275 (norm 150 wpm)|
Mr. Gonzalez seemed very receptive to the suggestions the clinicians made regarding slowing his
rate. He was instructed in abdominal breathing, speaking on the breath, and relaxation exercises to
increase his awareness of his breathing. He did quite well with this, especially when the clinicians
told him to use the time when others are speaking to take a full breath before beginning to talk.
The clinicians also introduced several facilitating techniques for slowing his rate, such as the use of
a metronome or a pacing board during continuous phonation, the chewing method to decrease
muscle tension, and the unhinging method to slow his rate. He did best with the facilitating
technique "unhinging" method in conjunction with the use of a pacing board. Mr. Gonzalez
received a handout that outlines the unhinging method for his use at home. Mr. Gonzalez has a
nice, low resonant male voice which will be helpful in gaining employment in the sex therapy field.
He is quite motivated to slow his rate for this reason; therefore, the clinicians believe that he is a
good candidate for use of the unhinging method as a facilitating technique.
The clinicians will continue to see Mr. Gonzalez once every other week while monitoring his
spontaneous speech rate by making unscheduled telephone calls to his home. They will make a
velcro watch band for Mr. Gonzalez to wear so he can run his finger over the velcro as a reminder
to slow his speech rate. The clinicians will use audio and video recorders during subsequent
sessions for Mr. Gonzalez to take home to practice the slower rate elicited in the therapy room.
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Boone, Daniel R., Ph.D. Is Your Voice Telling on You? (2nd Edition). San Diego: Singular Publishing
Group, Inc., 1997.
Colton, Raymond H., Ph.D. and Janina K. Casper, Ph.D. Understanding Voice Problems: A Physiological
Perspective for Diagnosis and Treatment (2nd Edition). Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1996.
Stemple, Joseph C., Ph.D., L.E. Glaze, Ph.D., and B.K. Gerdeman, Ph.D. Clinical Voice Pathology:
Theory and Management (2nd Edition). San Diego: Singular Publishing Group, Inc., 1997.
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Open Mouth Approach
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