3 ways 3 says-A Fun and Easy Way to Target the Invisible Meaning Behind the Words


After being back from the American Speech and Hearing Association in Atlanta GA, I had heard from a great speaker Ashley Wiley, MA CCC-SLP,  from Speak LA.  She is a SLP who uses drama with her clients to develop social thinking and understanding with children with autism.

One of the ways her program works on prosody or intonation to inject meaning into what we say is called 3 Ways 3 Says a fun and important part of reading what people are really saying…

1.  This exercise should start out with the definition of what intonation or prosody is and why we use.

2.  After the child has a firm understanding of these terms start to introduce the recognition of what word is inflected for emphasis on its meaning using simple phrases such as:

“You think I did it” or “You think I stole the money

Using different prosody for the first word in the phrase YOU think I did it, then You think I DID it and finally You think I did IT and see if the student can identify the emphasized word.

After the student can identify the emphasized word, take it to the next level and see if the student can attach meaning to this emphasis…What does it imply when a person says the words like this YOU think I did it etc.

This practice makes students aware of a very invisible but crucial social cue that people give with their voice and allows them to then practice using this prosody or intonation in their speech as well.

Here is a great video that demonstrates ways to make this invisible cue more visual for students

If you have the Social Skill Builder products My Community or School Rules! CDs, these types of intonation are addressed and can be practiced with your students as well.  All of Level 4 in each of these educational software tools is dedicated to the understanding of what others are thinking feeling or saying.


As a therapist, I add another layer to this great level by asking my students to “say” or “act out” the speech bubbles that are presented with each picture.  This allows them to match intonation to the meaning behind the pictured people.  So, if the person in the picture is commenting on someones clothing and says “nice shirt” I ask the student to say it they way they person in the picture is meaning it.  This really gives me insight to how well the student is matching facial expression, environmental context, and meaning behind the words.  If they say it with no inflection I know that the student has not gotten the full picture and if it was a true compliment or a sarcastic remark.  “Nice shirt” with the inflection on Nice can indicate a compliment whereas inflection on the shirt could indicate more of a sarcastic remark about the shirt.

In middle school and high school and beyond it is critically important to read these invisible meanings behind words and our kids need the practice!

Till Next Post Keep Socially Building!  Laurie