Many outsiders feel that therapy sessions should be filled with talking. Often SLPs feel pressured to fill every moment with some sound. We often forget the power of silence within the therapy setting.
Silence can be a valuable cueing tool within the therapy room. I recently rediscovered this while working with some students on using complete sentences to answer “wh” questions. The students were capable of answering in complete sentences using part of the question in the answer but needed continued prompting and cueing to remember to answer this way. When a student answered without a complete sentence I resisted the urge to immediately correct and instead just looked at them. This simple look helped them realize that they were still missing something in their response and they would answer correctly. I noticed that very quickly they began to need less “looks” and were starting to self-correct and self-evaluate their answers. They also seemed to take a few extra seconds before responding to think about their response which helps with spontaneous answering.
Once I saw the power that silence during a session can result in I began using it for other areas of communication disorders. In my articulation sessions it helped students begin to self-monitor and self-correct their speech more. Just a few second pause after an utterance while looking at the students cued them to rethink their production. Once a student begins to self-correct more frequently then I use the silence after correct and incorrect productions to see how well they are monitoring their speech and recognizing errors. I use the same technique in fluency therapy to promote self-monitoring and self-correction.
There are some great resources on the Hierarchy of Cueing and Prompting on the internet. These are also helpful to share with other colleagues that help to promote improved communication skills.