Private practice: Alberta. Online speech pathologist.
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Strive Online Speech Language Therapy
Are people asking you to repeat information? You may benefit from working with a speech-language pathologist.
Working on accent reduction is one of my favourite speech activities. I love it! It is very rewarding. Often a large part of my caseload is in accent reduction.
Why is it called Accent Reduction instead of learning new skills for a new language? I wish it were called "Learning Skills for a New Language". Accent Reduction is an old term that has been around for a long time. It implies that you are losing something. Instead, you are often learning new vowel sounds, how to discriminate vowel sounds, learning the placement to make new consonant sounds (examples: L, R, ing, Th), and other important skills to make it easier for others to understand your message.
It's wonderful that Canada has such diversity. Eliminating an accent entirely in English is usually not Strive's goal. Improving speech to a level that others do not have difficulty understanding your message may be the goal. For other clients, their goal may be to develop new skills to a level where they feel confident interacting socially or at work.
Accent reduction may make a difference for people. Clients have mentioned that they were not aware that they were using the incorrect consonants or vowel sounds. Others have said that they were not aware that they were using pronouns incorrectly, articles (a, the) and other grammatical structures. Strive hopes clients are not worried that it will be difficult as Shelley tries to make sessions enjoyable and work is completed in small steps from an easier level, gradually working toward the conversation level. After the session, the SLP may send you worksheets or SLP voice recordings to help you practise between sessions. Voice recordings can provide the SLP's model or instructions for certain sounds to then listen to on your computer or phone to enhance practise between sessions.
Frequently asked questions:
How long does it take?: The sessions are specific to each person. Some clients feel more confident after 6 to 8 sessions while others choose to continue on to work on more goals. It is up to the client when they would like to discontinue sessions. Clients are free to discontinue at any time.
What program do you use?
It is specific to each person. The SLP listens to all consonant and vowel sounds, intonation patterns, grammar and other areas of language and conversation skills. After some work, there are a few clients with specific requests, such as to listen to a video they made for their website or a uTube presentation for help. Others ask to practise presentations they are required to do at work. Some want to work on words or phrases that they use often at work that others are not understanding well. Other clients want to practise language and words frequently used in job interviews. Some clients have specific things that they want to work on while other clients look to the speech-language pathologist for some direction. The SLP is flexible and tries to work with the client to determine what is most important to the client. Some clients who may speak 2, 3, 4, or 5, languages have mentioned that they enjoy that goals are custom designed to the person's strengths and deficits rather than a specific workbook approach.
Why doesn't my husband/wife tell me how to correct my speech?
Your significant other may know that your speech sounds different than theirs but most likely will not be able to determine which sounds are substituted, which syllable stress is off, or even what grammatical substitutions are showing up. They also may be so used to your speech that they do not hear individual areas that could be worked on.
How do we work on a missing or substituted sound?
We start at the placement level, learning where to put the sides, front, back of the tongue or lips/jaw to achieve the sound at the sound level alone. Then we work step by step through a sequence of levels gradually increasing the level of difficulty as it becomes easier for the client. We may also help you hear the difference between the correct sound and substituted sound through listening to voice recordings. Learning a sound is a bit like learning a new sport. You learn a new muscle movement and with practise it generally becomes easier. The first time someone learns to downhill ski they are told how to position their skis to stop. After practising that movement it becomes much easier and you achieve that muscle memory. In time it becomes more automatic and you don't have to concentrate on it to perform the muscle movement. I tell people that learning a speech sound is like learning a new skill for a sport.
Why can't I hear my speech sound errors?
As an example we might be working on the difference in the vowel sound for "want" versus "won't". When I point out that the client is saying both words the same, lots of clients tell me that they are saying two different words, but they will actually be saying "want" "want" instead of "want" and "won't". After listening to my voice recordings and practising the vowel sound alone and then in the word, the client starts to hear the difference. When you say a word the same way for years you can be unaware that the word isn't right. I look for patterns. For example, many languages have the long vowel sounds but might be missing the short vowel sounds: A typical example is using "oh" in oven instead of "uh as in "but"for "oven". At first it can be hard to even hear the difference between the short and long vowel sounds. With practise in focused activities it becomes much easier. We will work on jaw height and lip position for the short vowel sounds to help you see, hear, and feel the difference. We will also work on listening activities to develop awareness of the differences in how the vowels sounds.
Am I too old to learn?
I've had clients in their 50s and 60s who wanted others to understand them better and they have progressed quite well. They seemed pleased with their progress. I haven't had anyone give it a try in their 70s or 80s but it would be interesting to give it a go. Learning new things can often be good for the brain regardless of age.