Acoustic Highlighting

Does your child have difficulty picking up the details in what your saying?

Or have a hard time tuning into speech?

Acoustic Highlighting is a strategy you can use to make it easier for your child to listen and develop their auditory skills.

Acoustic Highlighting is pretty much the easiest of all the listening and spoken language strategies. All you have to do is slightly increase the loudness of your voice, speak slightly slower, and put a tiny pause before and after the emphasized word. 

  • Increased vocal volume
  • Decrease rate of speech
  • Pauses before and after target word

(By the way, Acoustic Highlighting does NOT mean that you're shouting, yelling, or communicating in a demeaning manner. You're just breaking up the parts of a message so that it's easier for your child to process auditorily.)

When to Use Acoustic Highlighting

You use Acoustic Highlighting when you're emphasizing a new word or an important detail.

Let's say you're teaching your child the word "Fridge" and you use it in a sentence like "The fridge has food." You add a slight pause and make the word "Fridge" slightly louder. Kinda like this: "The.. fridge.. has food."

If I wanna emphasize a detail like a spatial concept (in/on/under), I do the same thing: slight pause and slightly louder. "Put the food.. in.. the fridge."

I've noticed that I only use Acoustic Highlighting in the middle of sentences, I don't emphasize a word that's at the beginning or end of a sentence. I wasn't ever specifically trained to only use it in the middle of a sentence, but it makes sense because it's easier to catch the first and last word of a message and it's harder in the middle.

Make It Sound as Natural as Possible

Using Acoustic Highlighting is great for training the brain to gather details in a message, but unfortunately it can make the message sound disfluent and unnatural.

You want to model natural speech as much as possible so that your child doesn't talk in a way that's different from peers or sounds 'off.' But you still need to use Acoustic Highlighting when you're teaching your child to listen... where's the compromise?

When we speak we naturally have pauses as we're thinking or trying to figure out what we want to say. When we use these pauses in typical conversation, they sound totally naturally and don't really draw attention to themselves. Using these natural 'thinking pauses' is how to make Acoustic Highlighting sound as natural as possible.

A natural 'thinking pause' used with Acoustic Highlighting would be something like this, "Let's put the food.... in the fridge." See? Super easy and it sounds a lot more natural!

Check out more Listening and Spoken Language Strategies

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