Building Speech: A Tool for Strategizing Success


Building Speech & Quantifying Complexity™ is a toolkit created and developed by Kathy Jakielski, Ph.D., CCC-SLP.

Kathy Jakielski, Ph.D., CCC-SLP started working with children with severe speech sound disorders over thirty years ago. She’s worked for private practices; public schools; acute, rehabilitation, and psychiatric hospitals; and university clinics; and now works as a full-time faculty member at Augustana College in Illinois where she specializes in apraxia, phonetics, speech disorders, and speech development. After spending years photocopying clipart and laminating homemade flash cards to fit her therapeutic approach, she decided to publish her approach and create tools for speech-language pathologists who work with children with speech sound disorders. Given that Jakielski’s approach is motor-based, making it especially appropriate for children with apraxia of speech, Apraxia Kids and Jakielski joined forces to publish materials to aid speech-language pathologists in their hands-on work with children with apraxia of speech.

Building Speech Box

The toolkit contains a manual that explains Jakielski’s approach for developing speech goals and stimuli, as well as contains a large collection of 790 ordered, organized flashcards. In addition, the manual includes a detailed scoring system for evaluating and tracking speech progress that can detect change even when change is slow. The foundation underlying Building Speech and Quantifying Complexity™ is Jakielski’s background in phonetic science, which is the study of speech sounds. Phonetic science includes how we articulate speech sounds, how we hear and process speech sounds, and how we combine speech sounds into words.

The basic concept of the kit is this: apraxia largely is a motor-based disorder, so therapists should have a motor-based, incremental strategy that teaches them how to develop therapeutic targets using a motor-speech-based hierarchy. “If you select the right words to teach, the child is going to experience success,” Jakielski says. “If the words are too hard to articulate, the child is not going to have success.

Jakielski compares the concept of teaching speech to teaching skills in sports. “The words in this approach move from simple to moderate to complex motor difficulty, just like you’d teach any other motor skill. You don’t start by teaching a young child to play basketball using a regulation-height hoop – they don’t have the ability to throw it that far,” she says.

The kit helps SLPs build a child’s motor skills for speech. There are eight hierarchically-sequenced speech patterns that provide a framework for helping the child incrementally build complex speech movements over time. Jakielski developed the eight patterns based on early and typical development of speech. Each pattern contains a description, explanation, and flashcards with words and pictures that fit the pattern. “I have found that most SLPs have not been trained in phonetic science, so most do not know how to think like a phonetician,” Jakielski says. “I’m trying to give SLPs who don’t have that background a different way to think about building speech in an incremental, sequential, motor-based way.”  The kit is not recommended for parents to use.

However, Jakielski emphasizes that her approach is not intended to be administered lock-step, instead, she says that each individual child’s phonetic inventory should guide the clinician’s choice of patterns to target. One child may begin with Pattern 1; however, another child may begin with Pattern 4. Likewise, one child may progress from one to the next pattern in order, while still another child may skip around patterns. In addition, she says that SLPs can use the kit in conjunction with whatever therapy technique they think is best for a particular child with apraxia. “It’s flexible, that’s what I like about it,” Jakielski says. “Children with apraxia are a heterogeneous group, and one size of therapy technique does not fit all.” The goal of the approach is not to tell therapists how to treat apraxia, but to help them figure out what to teach: the speech frames they want to teach, the words and phrases they want to target, and the creative activities that will make these words real and functional for a child.

The kit also has a solution to an issue that has long been challenging for SLPs treating children with apraxia: tracking progress. Because children with apraxia often progress steadily but slowly, there are very few tools available that can be used to document slow and incremental progress. Jakielski has developed a method in Building Speech and Quantifying Complexity ™ to track the successes of children with apraxia as they progress through the patterns, which can be used to quantify articulation of the words a child attempts to say, as well as the words as articulated by a child. Jakielski says this will not only help parents and SLPs to measure success, but also have a standardized way to document progress to insurance companies.

Building Speech & Quantifying Complexity ™ is available from the online store for $175 plus shipping.

All proceeds from the sale of Building Speech & Quantifying Complexity Kits benefit Apraxia Kids’ apraxia programs and research.