Guest Post: Pacing Boards

In celebration of my blog’s two-year anniversary, I hosted a “new blogger contest.”  I’ll be featuring three entrants this week in no particular ranking.  This idea comes from Jennifer at “NW Speech Therapy.”  Although I know pacing boards are popular, I haven’t tried them myself.  This post has me convinced it’s worth a shot!

I am going to share with you the most prized possession in my speech therapy room and no, it isn’t expensive.  Believe it or not it only takes two materials and just minutes to make.  What is this wonder I speak of…..It’s nothing other than a PACING BOARD.  I lovingly refer to it as “my precious”.


Pacing Board


I discovered the idea of a pacing board in my second year of grad school (I won’t mention how long ago that was).  I had a clinical advisor that suggested it to me when I was working with a child that still had not been diagnosed completely as he was very involved and VERY DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND.   Nowadays this child would probably have been diagnosed with cluttering.  Cluttering is a type of fluency disorder characterized by unusual breaks in speech.  Speech may be too fast, too slow or a combination of the two.  There is usually some language involvement such as word finding and disorganized thought formulation, etc.  You could probably imagine my frustration with working with this client as nothing I did seemed to consistently help and I felt as if I was failing him.  When my advisor suggested a pacing board that she had made by grabbing a piece of paper and drawing circles on it, I thought she was downright crazy.  I had tried the plethora of expensive therapy tools that we had at our fingertips in our college clinic and nothing was helping and she wanted me to use a piece of paper with circles on it.

Reluctantly, I tried it the very next session we had together and was amazed at how fast it evened out his speech.  Skeptical as to whether it would work the next session, I tried it again and low and behold I could understand so much more of what he was saying.  Now, I am not saying it was a miracle cure…without the pacing board he went back to his fast pace disorganized speech, so we definitely had some work to do past just having a pacing board in front of him but it was a great jumpstart to our therapy goals and it worked the majority of the time.  The pacing board really changed the direction that therapy was going and its overall effectiveness.  Needless to say, I have used a pacing board ever since and with the majority of my clients.  Over the years I have found a variety of ways to use a pacing board and tons of different ways to tweak it depending on what I am using it for.

Disorders that a pacing board could be used for include:

  • Verbal apraxia
  • Motor planning
  • Dysarthria
  • Cluttering/Fluency
  • Language disorders
  • Autism
  • Articulation/Phonological Processing

The treatment goals are endless, here are a few of the big ones I use a pacing board for:

  • Breaking up syllables
  • Slowing a sentence utterance down (especially for those superfast talkers)
  • Inclusion of medial or final consonants
  • As a sentence strip
  • Expanding mean length utterance

Now you probably want specifics on how to use the boards right??  Well keep reading and I will throw in some photos too….who doesn’t LOVE visuals!

When I am using a pacing board for working on multisyllables, I have a client tap the syllables out (one syllable per sticker) to help them slow down the word and increase their ability to get all the syllable/sound parts in.  If they are able to get all the parts in, I will have them immediately put it in a short sentence.  It may be a rote/easy sentence like “I see a _____” or I have them make up a sentence of their own.  For the sentence we would use one tap per word and one tap per syllable of the multisyllable word so the sentence “I–saw–a–butterfly–in–the–sky” would have 9 taps total.  This really helps them get those multisyllables carried over to sentences/conversation.  “Note” I usually don’t worry about how they are breaking the word up in the sense of splitting the syllables up the correct way.  I find that some children and even adults separate words differently and since we are not focusing on the ability to break up the syllables correctly, I usually allow the child to break it up in a way that makes it easiest for them to organize and say it.  I often write out the parts on the card itself so that the child has a visual cue.  Here is an example:

Pacing Board for Multisyllables

One of the unique ways that I use a pacing board is by inserting a “PAUSE and THINK” spot in the front (as seen below).  I use this for those superfast talkers that often do NOT think before they speak and with working on slowing down a childs speech rate.  I have the child start out by holding a finger on the “Pause and Think” spot until they have thought about what they want to say (I give at least a minute minimum).  Then they start their sentence by tapping one sticker per word.  When they run out of stickers they start back at the first sticker on the left and keep going.  This allows for variability of sentence length without having to switch out boards.  One thing that parents ask a lot is “my child won’t always talk that slow, will he? and my response is always the same “NO”.  Children will naturally speed themselves back up.  The point of the pacing board is to help train their brain to pace themselves and think about everything they are saying in order to practice articulating the words.  Similar to the strategy of over exaggerating/over enunciating. The sentence “I –want—to—eat—a—slice—of—pizza” would get 8 taps.  If a child wants to separate out syllables too then this sentence may get 9 taps and I’m usually okay with them doing that.  The one thing that I do not want to do is interrupt their train of thought or mess up their pacing by being nit picky about little details that are insignificant in the long run.

Pacing Board - Pause and Think


One of my favorite ways to use a pacing board is for inclusion of medial and final consonants.  I use puffy stickers or sequences attached as the final sound marker so they have a tactile feel.  I will use the board to have them try the same word up to five times (ex. haT, haT, haT, haT, haT) and I will also have them put it into simple phrases (ex. my haT) when they are able to be successful at the word level,  The “ha” is tapped out on the smile and the “t” is tapped out on the small black square next to the smile.  This works so well, even with my young kiddos.

Pacing Board Final Sound Inclusion


Another way that I use the pacing board is as a sentence strip.  I will add velcro to each smile/sticker,etc and add the PEC pictures that are needed for the sentence.

To use a pacing board in order to expand mean length of utterance, I use a regular pacing board similar to the picture you see with multisyllables above.  We use this board first to name the object in a picture (ie. Ball) and tap it out on the first spot.  Then we look at the picture to find ways to expand our sentence by adding location, description, etc.  (ie.  Blue ball or ball on table, etc).  I love how much practice we can get with this and my clients love seeing how many more smiles they can get with longer sentences.  It easily becomes a competition and if your kids are anything like my kids, competition equals MOTIVATION!!  I don’t have to talk them into making their sentences longer.  If I made a 3 word sentence then they really want to make a 4 words sentence so they use more smiles than I did!

Extra Tidbits for using your pacing board:

  • LAMINATE your pacing board for durability.  I also tend to use card stock as well for even more durability.
  • If laminated, you can use a dry erase marker to write out the syllable parts or words onto the board each time to give your client an added visual cue.
  • Send a pacing board home with your client to use while practicing homework, talking at the dinner table, etc.
  • If able, have the student tape one to their desk to use in the classroom, teacher usually are very receptive to this.
  • Play around with sticker of differing size and feel (ie. Puffy stickers vs. flat stickers, big vs. little, bright vs solid colors).  The puffy stickers give a good tactile cue for those kids that need it.
  • In most cases you will not even need to fade out the pacing board as over time the client will fade out the need for it themselves.  For the speedy talkers and disorganized thinkers, I usually have to fade out the need for it.  To do this I start to have them switch to using a finger or toe tap to pace themselves vs. the board.   Something that others would not notice so that they can continue to use a strategy when needed and no one else will even know they were doing it.   This is especially important for those older middle school/high school clients that won’t even attempt to do it if it brought too much attention to themselves.
  • Other therapists have mentioned using them as a reinforcer board by placing chips, etc on each circle or as a motivator for a child to be done with an activity and get a break.  Once the 4 stickers are filled you get free time.

I can’t stress how wonderful pacing boards are.  They have become such a useful tool in my therapy sessions because they are so versatile and take only minutes to create…what therapist doesn’t love that.

I’m sure that in no time a pacing board will become your “precious” too!!

To grab a free copy of these pacing boards to use with your clients click here,

I would love to hear how YOU plan on using a pacing board in your therapy sessions!!


This Post Has One Comment

  1. I too enjoy a pacing board for sure. I love how you illustrated the use for so many different populations, disorders and goals! It really is a wonder isn’t it? How amazing a small, quick, cheap visual can help our kiddos! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.