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The Spokesman: Part IV

D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer

Every sentence tells a story; make yours well told

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Baruch: I’m so pumped for Purim. It makes this whole therapy thing worth it.

Zaidy: Such nachas to hear Baruch’s weekly devar Torah… and understand it.

Chavrusa: I’m so nervous about this chaburah I have to give. Maybe Baruch can help me.



ow was your midwinter vacation?” I ask Baruch.

“Good,” he says, then catches himself. “I mean… I had a good time. I went skiing. With my friends. On Mount Fairy.” [Baruch still talks in short, choppy sentences.]

“Wow, that sounds fantastic.” Baruch’s speed of speech has slowed down, his expression has improved, and he’s aware of the need to use strong language instead of vague words. Now it’s time to work on his sentences.

“Every sentence tells a story,” I explain to Baruch. “To do that, besides using specific terms, every sentence has to have a subject and predicate.” [The subject is a noun, the predicate is a verb. If every sentence is a short story, the subject is who the story is about. The predicate is what happened.]

Baruch groans.

“I’m going to role-play,” I announce. “I’m a yeshivah bochur and I’m telling you what I did on midwinter.” I clear my throat. “We went there. You know, that place, for our off-Shabbos. We called this car rental place. In the end we decided to use the one that’s there in that place that’s nearby. The place we picked rocked. We were there for, like, a long time.”

Baruch writes as I’m talking, so he has a transcript.

“See if you can find all the fillers and nonspecific words,” I say

Baruch circles you know, that place, this car rental, the one that’s there, place, like, and long time. We work on deleting the fillers and replacing the nonspecific words with specific words. Then I direct Baruch to underline the fragments and turn them into complete sentences.

Baruch underlines, You know, that place for our off-Shabbos. The updated paragraph reads: We went to Mt. Fairy for our off-Shabbos. We called Avis car rental. In the end we decided to use Enterprise, which is near the house we were staying in. The ski slope we picked rocked. We were there for the whole day.

This is tough work for Baruch [Since these “incorrect” conversations sound exactly like the way Baruch talks, it’s tough for him to identify which are wrong], but over time, it becomes more natural.

One day as we’re practicing, I ask him to write a few sentences about Purim, and then correct them. He works quietly for a few minutes, then reads aloud, slowly and clearly:

This year we reserved a cool green limo. The guys were deciding who should speak when we’re collecting. I never got picked but I speak much better now. Maybe next year I’ll get picked.

Is Baruch cured? His sentences are still simplistic and do not flow naturally from one to the next. Still, his speech is slower and clearer and has expression. He can express his thoughts in a way that others can understand. He’s definitely on the way to becoming a spokesman.


Take It Home

Presentation matters. To show your best side as you speak, focus on these areas:


Slow down

It’s not enough to simply tell a child to “talk slower”; they have no idea what you mean. Model it and practice together.


Loud and clear

Practice projecting your voice as if you’re talking to someone across the room.


No mumbling

Say every syllable, especially in longer words.


Be specific

Avoid nonspecific words and fillers like thing, stuff, whatever, place, you know, umm, yeah, and okay.


Speak in full sentences

Fragments are vague and leave the listener struggling to fill in the gaps.


Use expression

Stress the important and emotional words as you speak. Communicate with your tone as well as with your words.

Originally featured in Family First, Issue 635. D. Himy is a speech-language pathologist in private practice and creator of the Link-It and STARPower curriculums. The fictional characters in this column represent typical client profiles.

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