I remember very clearly sitting in a great session at an ASHA convention when the reason for using nonsense syllables in speech articulation therapy was presented. I used to be under the impression to make articulation therapy meaningful and functional to support acquisition.

Here’s what changed my mind about nonsense syllables:

  • When we use nonsense words we do not access semantic knowledge when producing the sound. When we use “real” words we use pathways associated with a given word. We are using the vocabulary area of the brain and attempting to change pathways that are ingrained.
  • When we use nonsense words we are strictly working on the motor planning and coordination parts of the brain…because they are not words! This way you can just work on supporting the motor coordination and planning.
  • With the use of nonsense words, you no longer have years of producing the word “wrong” interfering with accurate sound production. It allows you and the child to focus on just the production and the movement needed with the sound.

I came home and tried it. But it was hard to make sure that I was combining all the vowels and sounds together in therapy. It was difficult to make sure I was being thorough without making my small client say something inappropriate. Ha!.

The bottom line about nonsense syllables:

  1.  The child does not have an existing motor plan for the nonsense words.
  2. The linguistic system (except phonology) is not required to activate and neither does it interfere with the production of the word.
  3. In the first few sessions, each nonsense word is a brand new concept to the child and therefore requires them to use their speech motor system to make a new plan.
  4. Practicing nonsense words has resulted in improved production of real words.

McCabe, P., Thomas, D., Murray, E., Crocco, L., & Madill, C. (2017). Rapid Syllable Transition Treatment – ReST The University of Sydney. Retrieved from http://sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/rest/ {downloaded 2/6/2018}

So I made some nonsense syllables for articulation materials that you can find here.

My review: It has worked. It has worked in situations where traditional therapy hasn’t worked. I would never say that all kids should use nonsense words in speech therapy. But I would say that it is an evidenced-based tool to use and a trick to have in your back pocket to try!

%d bloggers like this:
Malcare WordPress Security