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Diadochokinetic Rate

July 15, 2011

Try saying that 20 times fast

Actually we may get you to say  “puh-tuh-kuh” 20 times fast, but why exactly? 

Speech-Language Pathologists use it as an assessment tool to measure oral motor skills. They want to measure how quickly an individual can accurately produce a series of rapid, alternating sounds using different parts of the mouth: the lips, the tip of the tongue, and the soft palate (back of the mouth), respectively. The SLP will record how many times you are able to repeat each sound, or the series of sounds over a period of time (usually around five to fifteen seconds). To get a better idea of what an SLP looks for, a typical ten-year-old child usually produces 20 repetitions of the syllable “puh” in 3.7 seconds (Fletcher, 1972).

Generally, as a child ages and their motor system naturally matures, DDK rates will also increase. However, a reduced rate in either children or adults can be suggestive of speech impairment. A slower or variable DDK rate can be used as an indictor in diagnosing different conditions, such as ataxia, dysarthria, childhood apraxia of speech, and stuttering.

Some young clients may have difficulty understanding the instructions for the DDK tasks. If this happens, the SLP may choose to use real words, such as “buttercup” or “pattycake”, as it makes it easier for the child and the same information can still be obtained.

In our own clinical experience, we found that if the child is able to produce the sequence of sounds but has difficulty giving enough productions, a fun option is to use finger puppets. Give each finger puppet a name (i.e. “This is Puh, this is Tuh, and this is Kuh”) and wiggle each finger in turn when it’s time for that sound to be said. Keep wiggling until you get enough productions!

Suggestion: Alien finger puppets are always a hit, and you can get enough productions by making the puppets hop backwards until they reach their spaceship


Cardeiro, D.J. 2005. Diadochokinetic rate. Thomson Gale.

Fletcher, S. G. 1972. Time-by-Count Measurement of Diadochokinetic Syllable Rate. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 15: 763–70.

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