What is Prosody?

Prosody refers to the rhythm and melody of language characterized by stress, pitch, and intonation. Disorders of prosody usually occur in conjunction with other medical conditions such as ataxia, hypotonia, respiratory insufficiency, dysarthria, and psychogenic disorders. In children, difficulties with prosody are most often observed in conjunction with the following conditions: autism spectrum disorders, developmental disorders, hearing impairment, and apraxia of speech. Prosody is also directly related to specific language areas including syntax, semantics, morphology, and the pragmatic/social areas of language.

What are some symptoms of a deficiency in prosody?

Some symptoms of deficiencies with prosody include: decreased rate, duration, and rhythm of speech, pitch variations, reduced volume, and deficits with phonology. Individuals who present such deficiencies may also demonstrate abnormal vocal quality where their voices may appear to sound flat and monotone. Children with such a disorder may often omit syllables in words and phrases, inappropriately pause within utterances, and reduce stress in connected speech.

How does prosody develop?

The development of prosody occurs approximately between the ages of 5-8, although more adult-like prosody is typically seen between the ages of 10-12. Prosody may take many years to successfully master, and some children may struggle with mastering this skill. It is imperative that children with disorders of prosody seek treatment early on in order to help facilitate developmentally appropriate skills and to prevent deficits from occurring later on in life.

How can I help treat my child’s problems with prosody?

Children with suspected disorders of prosody should be referred to a speech-language pathologist for further evaluation. Intervention for disorders of prosody may focus primarily on increasing speech rate, volume, and pitch. Augmentative and alternative communication devices may also be used when oral communication strategies and medical interventions are not effective, and this becomes necessary in patients with more severe deficits.

Our Approach at North Shore Pediatric Therapy

At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, our speech-language pathologists will outline appropriate goals and objectives for your child, following his initial evaluation. Various treatment strategies–such as melodic intonation therapy and accent therapy–may be implemented. Your child will receive care that is individualized and specialized for him, and we will provide visual and pitch feedback, imitation training, and loudness modification to maximize effectiveness as well. Most important, however, our speech-language pathologists will work to help your child increase his confidence and reach his full potential.

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