Tagged "oral motor"

Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) vs. Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises (NSOME): Understanding the Debate

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

By: Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP & Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP This poster was presented at the 2015 annual ASHA Convention, Session #9333, Poster Board #602.

TalkTools | ASHA Poster 2015


Presentation explores 1) defining Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises, 2) defining Oral Placement Therapy, 3) understanding the difference between NSOME and OPT, 4) clinical implications for Evidenced Based Practice.

Two widely used models of articulation therapy include the traditional and phonological models (Bowen, 2005). While studies suggest that the phonological model may prove more positive results than the traditional model (Klein, 1996), Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Approach may be more useful for individuals who are not be able to achieve placement cues (Van Riper, 1978). Many therapists supplement phonological and traditional models with oral motor activities to help achieve placement cues, especially for those individuals with muscle-based and motor-based diagnoses (Marshalla, 2007). Over the past decade, there has been an ongoing debate, through secondary research studies between those who do not support the use of Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises (NSOME) and those who support the use of Oral Placement Therapy (OPT). Neither camp has large sampled double-blind studies to support their case; however, both sides of the debate have supported their hypothesis via literature review and surveys (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010; Lof & Watson, 2005).  


1. Participants will be able to differentiate a NSOME from an OPT technique.

2. Participants will be able to define the three stages of a phonetic placement cue.

3. Participants will be able to use at least three oral placement cues in order to facilitate speech movements.  


NSOME are movements which are not related to speech sounds, while OPT therapy only includes speech-like movements. OPT follows the principles of Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Therapy (PPT), and uses tactile cueing to help individuals who cannot respond to visual-verbal treatment cues. Children with Oral Placement Disorder (OPD) cannot imitate targeted speech sounds using auditory and visual stimuli (ex. look, listen, and say what I say). They also cannot follow specific instructions to produce targeted speech sounds (e.g. put your lips together and say /m/). Although the term Oral Placement Disorder is new, the concepts surrounding the term have been discussed by a number of authors and clinicians (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010). OPT facilitates the muscle placement to produce the targeted standard speech sound. If the client can produce standard speech using adequate placement and endurance using only auditory and visual cueing, OPT would not be included in that client’s treatment plan.

OPT is a modern extension of Phonetic Placement Therapy (PPT) as taught by Van Riper (1978) and follows The Feedback Model by Mysak (1971). It is based on a very common sequence:

1. Facilitate speech movement with the assistance of a therapy tool (ex. horn, tongue depressor);

2. Facilitate speech movement without the therapy tool and/or tactile-kinesthetic technique (cue fading);

3. Immediately transition movement into speech with and without therapy tools and/or tactile-kinesthetic techniques.  

As quoted from Dr. Gregory Lof in 2006:"No speech sound requires the tongue tip to be elevated toward the nose; no sound is produced by puffing out the cheeks; no sound is produced in the same way as blowing is produced. Oral movements that are irrelevant to speech movements will not be effective as speech therapy techniques." Puffing air in cheeks during blowing is not used in OPT.Abdominal grading for phonatory control, jaw stability and jaw-lip-tongue dissociation are important for speech sound production.The use of a therapeutic horn can help shape the articulators into the placements required for the bilabial sounds /m, b, p/. That tool is quickly faded once the individual has the muscle-memory skill to produce the correct oral placement without the tool in the mouth.TalkTools | ASHA Poster 2015 picture 1
As quoted from Dr. Gregory Lof in 2003:"There is no relevance to the end product of speaking by using an exercise of tongue wagging, because there are no speech sounds that require tongue wagging." This movement is not related to speech so should not be used in speech therapy sessions. Tongue wagging is not used in OPT.Stimulation of the lateral margins of the tongue with vibration, elicits elongation of the tongue and can assist in creating the tongue tip tension needed to elevate the tip to the incisive papillae for / n, t, d, l /.TalkTools | ASHA Poster 2015 picture 2
As quoted from Dr. Gregory Lof in 2009:"NSOME encourages gross and exaggerated range of motion, not small, coordinated movements that are required for talking." OPT only works on small, coordinated movements that are similar to speech.Blowing a bubble with appropriate placement of the articulators assists with lip rounding using the correct jaw posture for the high jaw vowels /w/, /u/ and /o/. We immediately practice those sounds without the therapy tool as per Van Riper’s PPT.TalkTools | ASHA Poster 2015 picture 2


Clinical data supports the relationship between OPT and speech clarity. The graph below reflects data collected from sessions with a 6 year old male with labial paresis. Lip closure on a flat-mouthed horn and bilabial production progress were monitored. When lip closure on the horn improved so did bilabial production. In sessions where lip closure was not as positive bilabial clarity decreased.

ASHA Poster 2015 graph


Dr. Gregory Lof’s research has stated that the methods used in Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Approach, are not in fact considered NSOME (Lof, 2009). It is important to explore current clinical techniques to determine what activities are considered unrelated to speech production, as opposed to those activities that in fact are an extension of Phonetic Placement Therapy (Marshalla, 2007). If therapists understand the current debate, and that a NSOME is not the same as OPT; there would be less confusion amongst professionals in regard to evidence based practices when working towards improved speech clarity. Clinicians must use EBP to decide if they want to reject the use of a therapy technique based on the evidence, and look into the most appropriate treatment parameters based on the recipient of the treatment, and the diagnosis (ASHA, 2005). This new understanding of how OPT is used to create the standard placement for speech production would then encourage university-based researchers to explore why practicing SLPs report they use this therapy with good results. The next step would be large sample, double blind studies that would definitively address the use of OPT for clients with muscle-based speech clarity disorders.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2005). Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders [Position Statement]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

Bahr, D., Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2010). Treatment of children with speech oral placement disorders (OPDs): a paradigm emerges. Communication Disorders Quarterly, XX(X), 108.

Bowen, C. (2013). Controversial practices and intervention for children with speech sound disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/pdf/nsome2013.pdf

Klein, E.S. (1996). Phonological/traditional approaches to articulation therapy: a retrospective group comparison. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 27, 314-323.

Lof, G. (2003). Oral motor exercises and treatment outcomes. SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, Vol. 10, 7-11.

Lof, G. L., & Watson, M. (2005). Survey of universities teaching: oral motor exercises and other procedures. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, San Diego, CA.

Lof, G.L. (2006). Logic, theory and evidence against the use of non-speech oral-motor exercises to change speech sound productions. Invited presentation at the ASHA Annual Convention, Miami, FL. Nov. 17.

Lof, G.L. (2009). Nonspeech oral motor exercises: an update on the controversy. Presentation at ASHA Annual Convention, New Orleans, LA.

Marshalla, P. (2007). Oral motor techniques are not new. Oral Motor Institute, 1(1). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Mysak, E. (1971). Speech pathology and feedback therapy. Charles C. Thompson Publisher.

Van Riper, C. (1978). Speech Correction: Principles and Methods (6th Edition). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Young, E. H., & Hawk, S. S. (1955). Moto-kinesthetic speech training. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Podcast: A Case for Oral Placement Therapy

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Recently, TalkTools® Presenter Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP joined Jeff Stepen, MS, CCC-SLP on his podcast, Conversations in Speech Pathology. In the podcast, Robyn discusses common misconceptions about Oral Placement Therapy (OPT). Click below to listen to the podcast.

We encourage everyone to add their thoughts for discussion in the comments section on the Conversations in Speech Pathology page.

  TalkTools_Robyn Merkel-Walsh_Podcast
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Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders in Individuals with a Diagnosis of Down Syndrome

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

By: Robyn Merkel-Walsh MA, CCC-SLP

Presentation of the Problem:

Individuals with Down syndrome are at risk for what is known as Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders or OMD. OMD can impact the oral phase of feeding, oral resting postures and oral placement skills for speech clarity. OMD issues require tactile therapies which include Myofunctional and Oral Placement Therapy (OPT). Myofunctional therapy and OPT are not the same as non-speech oral motor exercises. The purpose of this article is to differentiate the difference between non-speech movements and speech–like movements in treatment for individuals with Down syndrome, and to explore various types of tactile therapies that may help facilitate progress.

What Kind of Therapy Are We Talking About and Is It Evidenced Based?:

The ongoing question in the field of speech pathology is whether or not Oral Motor Therapy is evidenced based. Evidence Based Practice (EBP) according to the American Speech and Hearing Association is "the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values" (ASHA, 2005). There is a misconception that EBP is limited to double-blind studies when in fact EBP is very centered on valuing feedback from the individual receiving treatment, and the clinical data collected in therapy. Not every method in the field of speech pathology has a large sampled, double blind study. For example, there is no proof that mirror aides in articulation therapy, but many therapists and patients report the value of mirror use when learning to imitate speech sounds. In addition, no one study can prove that another study is not valuable. No one study has proven that oral-motor, OPT or Myofunctional therapy is an invalid or unethical therapy method.

Another problem is that Oral Motor Therapy is a very general term that leads to confusion. Pre-feeding exercises, non-speech oral motor exercises, myofunctional therapy, strengthening exercises, swallowing exercises, oral imitation tasks and the use of oral speech tools were all being associated with the term Oral Motor Therapy. Though many therapists and parents see the clinical success of these therapies, there is still controversy in the field about the efficacy of these therapies. This is why in 2010 Diane Bahr and Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson wrote a landmark article in Communications Quarterly, outlining the difference between non-speech oral motor exercises (NSOME) and OPT. The major difference noted, was that NSOME are movements which are not related to speech sounds, while OPT therapy only includes speech-like movements (Bahr  & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010). OPT follows the principles of Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Therapy (PPT), and uses tactile cueing to help individuals who cannot respond to visual-verbal treatment cues (Marshalla, 2008).  The use of therapy tools in speech pathology is certainly not new according to Pam Marshalla (2012) , and therapists admit that even after hearing that oral-motor exercises may not have research to support their use, they still use them in practice  (Bahr, 2011).

Over thirty-five years ago, The International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) was formed, and has addressed the need for regulated educational opportunities and standardized college level credentialing of therapists to treat OMD (Snow, 2015). Experts in myofunctional therapy understand the connection between the airway, dentition, and tongue posture, swallowing and speech clarity. The Myofunctional Clinic of Bellevue has compiled an excellent list of EBP  to support the use of myofunctional therapy with a variety of individuals (Bellevue, 2015). Gommerman & Hodge produced a study analyzing the effectiveness of myofunctional therapy and sibilant production and found that articulation therapy was achievable in only four therapy sessions after a tongue-thrust disorder was remediated in myofunctional therapy (Gommerman & Hodge, 1995).

Oral-motor therapy has never been debated in cases of oral phase dysphagia or for tongue-thrust disorders; therefore it seems questionable that some experts in the field continuously debate the ethics and efficacy of these practices, especially in the Down syndrome populations, where we can predict issues with OMD. For example, Caroline Bowen has a publication on her website indicating that NSOME are unnecessary for children with Down syndrome (Bowen, 2015). The rationale is that to gain speech, speech must be worked on. There is some misconception that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who work on OMD issues are not working on speech, and this is not the case (Merkel-Walsh & Bahr,  2014).

The Importance Of Treating Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders in Down Syndrome:

When a baby is born with Down syndrome, there are some factors we assume to be true about craniofacial development, feeding and swallowing. In 1997, Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson identified the myths of Down syndrome. This included: a high narrow palatal vault, (Myth #1), tongue protrusion (#2), mild to moderate conductive hearing loss (#3), chronic upper respiratory infections (#4), mouth breathing (#5), habitual open mouth posture (#6), and finally, the impression that the child's tongue is too big for its mouth (#7) (Rosenfeld-Johnson, 1997). The reason Sara referred to these issues as myths, is because clinical evidence suggests that these issues can be prevented and/or improved by therapeutic intervention. For example, Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson presented case studies at the American Speech and Hearing Association annual convention, highlighting improvements in an adult patient with Down syndrome with one month of OPT (Rosenfeld-Johnson,  2014).

Despite the myths, clinicians are often faced with a variety of orofacial myofunctional challenges when treating individuals with Down syndrome. This includes but is not limited to: poor speech intelligibility, tongue thrusting, bruxing / teeth grinding, oral-phase feeding deficits and inappropriate oral habits (Bahr , 2001). It is important to treat these issues in conjunction with language-based speech therapy.

Since there is some confusion regarding terminology, it is important to understand various types of OMD therapies.  We can categorize therapeutic interventions into four categories:

  • Pre-feeding/Oral Sensory-Motor Therapy: These are exercises introduced to improve jaw, lip, and tongue movements as a prerequisite for safe, effective nutritive feedings. A pre-feeding plan is always one step ahead of a feeding plan. For example, if the goal is spoon feeding, the infant is receiving the primary source of nutrition from the breast and/or bottle, while the therapist works on the sensory-motor skills needed for spoon feeding  (Overland & Merkel-Walsh, 2013). It is important to understand the oral-motor developmental hierarchy and age related normative data when designing a pre-feeding treatment plan.
  • Feeding Therapy : Therapeutic feeding may focus on the oral phase of feeding, and/or the pharyngeal phase of feeding. Feeding therapy involves manipulation of the placement of food in the mouth, designing the tastes, temperatures and tastes to work with, and is always considerate of safety. Feeding therapy often involves the choice of therapeutic feeding equipment, including adaptive seating, as well as therapeutic spoons, cups, forks, and straws (Overland & Merkel-Walsh, 2013).
  • Oral Placement Therapy: OPT does not include NSOME. OPT is a specific therapy which involves tactile cueing in order to facilitate the articulatory postures required for precise speech sound production. OPT follows the principles of Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Therapy in which: a therapist facilitates an oral posture with a therapy tool, drills this posture through repetition, and slowly fades out the tactile cue once the individual can produce the sound accurately (Bahr D. & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010).
  • Myofunctional Therapy: Joy Moeller, a dental hygenist who specializes in myofunctional disorders, defines this therapy as a program used to correct the improper function of the tongue and facial muscles used at rest, for chewing and for swallowing (Moeller, 2008). Myofunctional therapy is essentially a combination of pre-feeding, feeding, and OPT. Dentists, lactation consultants, otolaryngologists, dental hygienists and SLPs treat myofunctional disorders. Myofunctional therapy often involves a hierarchy of exercises, which helps an individual simultaneously correct oral-rest posture, oral habits (e.g. thumb sucking) swallowing and speech sound production (Merkel, 2002).

          Individuals with Down syndrome often may require all four types of tactile therapies, since they may often present with feeding and speech issues. The problem remains, that many universities are not teaching these methods to clinicians, and families are struggling to find the services (Pierce & Taylor, 2002). In order to understand how these therapies can facilitate improvement, let’s look at some orofacial myofunctional issues associated with Down syndrome:




          Tactile Intervention

          Low jaw posture and tongue protrusion during oral rest posture

          Therapist can work on facilitation of lip closure by placing a Jiggler tool in between the lips to facilitate lip closure. (Overland & Merkel-Walsh, 2013).


          Reversed swallowing pattern/tongue thrust

          Therapist engages client in therapeutic straw drinking   to facilitate jaw stability, lip rounding and tongue retraction. (Rosenfeld-Johnson S.  2009).

          TalkTools | Straw 8

          Feeding Myofunctional
          Teeth grinding

          Therapist uses appropriate biting activities, chewing, appropriate mouthing activities, and massage techniques (Bahr, 2001). Therapist implements a gum chewing program to facilitate an appropriate replacement for teeth grinding (Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2009).

          TalkTools | Bean bags

          Pre-feeding Feeding Myofunctional
          Interdental lisp Therapist implements activities to superimpose lip closure with tongue retraction in order to improve strength and dissociation of the musculature, such as therapeutic horn and bubble blowing (Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2009; Merkel, 2002). The tools will be faded when the oral placement skill is achieved and the individual can produce the target sound without the use of the tactile cue/tool.boy bubble OPT Myofunctional



          Individuals with Down syndrome may present with orofacial myofunctional challenges. While some therapists argue that non-speech oral motor exercises are not appropriate for these individuals, experts in tactile therapies have worked diligently to differentiate NSOME from OPT. Evidenced Based Practice is not limited to double blind studies and includes client feedback and therapeutic outcomes. Experts in OMD have provided evidence over the years to support the use of tactile therapies, and the relationship between swallowing and speech. Practicing clinicians are providing more case studies in the research base and most importantly, individuals who have engaged in OPT have positive reports of progress. There is no doubt that more studies need to be performed, and experts in OPT are hopeful to have more support from universities to perform larger group studies.

          robyn Robyn Merkel-Walsh MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist with over 20 years’ experience devoted to oral motor, feeding and OPT. She works full time for the Ridgefield Board of Education, in addition to her private practice and affiliation as a lecturer for TalkTools®. Robyn is the Acting Chair of the Oral Motor Institute and has recently presented a poster session at the ASHA convention. You may contact Robyn at robynslp95@aol.com.    



          ASHA (2005). Evidence-based practice in communication disorders [Position Statement]. Retrieved from asha.org: http://www.asha.org/policy/PS2005-00221/

          Bahr, D. & Rosenfeld-Johnson (2010). Treatment of Children With Speech Oral Placement Disorders (OPDs): A Paradigm Emerges. Communications Quarterly, vol. 31 no. 3 131-138 .

          Bahr, D. (2001). Nobody Evert Told Me (or my mother) That ! Arlington, TX: Sensory World.

          Bahr, D. (2011, September). The Oral Motor Institute. Retrieved from The Oral-Motor Debate Part I: Understanding the Problem: www.oralmotorinstitute.org/mons/v3n1_bahr.html

          Bellevue, M. C. (2015, March ). Studies showing efficacy of orofacial myofunctional therapy. Retrieved from Myofunctional Clinic of Bellvue: http://myofunctional.com/internal/resources.html

          Bowen, C. (2015, January 13). Controversial Practices in Children's Speech Sound Disorders - Oral Motor Exercises, Dietary Supplements, Auditory Integration Training . Retrieved from Speech-Language Therapy.com: http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=28:controversy&catid=11:admin&Itemid=122http://

          Gommerman, S.  & Hodge, M.M.  (1995). Effects of oral myofunctional therapy on swallowing and sibliant production. International Journal of Orofacial Myology, 21:9-22.

          Marshalla, P. (2008, April). Oral Motor TReatment VS. Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises:Historical Clinical Evidence of "Twenty-two Fundamental Methods". Retrieved from The Oral Motor Institute.: www.oralmotorinstitute.org/mons/v2n2_marshalla.html

          Marshalla, P. (2012). Horns, whistles, bite blocks, and straws: A review of tools/objects used in articulation therapy by Van Riper and other traditional therapists. . Retrieved from oralmotorinstitute.org: www.oralmotorinstitute.org/mons/v4n2_marshalla.html

          Merkel, R. (2002). Systematic Intervention for Lingual Elevation . Tucson, AZ: TalkTools.

          Merkel-Walsh, R. & Bahr, D.  (2014). Ages & Stages. Retrieved from What evidence-based, oral sensory-motor treatments are effective for speech disorders?: http://www.agesandstages.net/qadetail.php?id=31

          Moeller, J. (2008). What is myofunctional therapy ? Retrieved from myofunctional-therapy.com: http://www.myofunctional-therapy.com/what-is-myofunctional-therapy.html

          Overland, L. & Merkel-Walsh (2013). A Sensory -Motor Approach to Feeding. Charleston, SC: Talk Tools.

          Pierce, R. & Taylor, P. (2002). Rationale for including orofacial myofunctional therapy in university training programs. International Journal of Orofacial Myology., 24-34.

          Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (1997). The Oral-Motor Myths of Down Syndrome. Advance Magazine for Speech-Language Pathologists.

          Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2009). Oral Placement Therapy for Speech Clarity and Feeding. Charleston, SC: TalkTools.

          Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2014). Using Tactile Cues to improve speech clarity in the adult rehabilitative setting. ASHA Convention. Orlando , FL: TalkTools. Retrieved from Talk Tools.

          Snow, M. (2015, March 13). International Association of Orofacial Myology. Retrieved from IAOM: http://www.iaom.com/history.html

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          Oral Motor Deficits in Speech-Impaired Children with Autism

          Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

          New article published in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience of a cooperative research group that included:
          • The Groden Centre, USA
          • Division of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom
          • Center for the Study of Human Development, Brown University, USA
          • The Com DEALL Trust, India

          Authors: Matthew K. Belmonte, Tanushree Saxena-Chandhok, Ruth Cherian, Reema Muneer, Lisa George and Prathibha Karanth


          "Absence of communicative speech in autism has been presumed to reflect a fundamental deficit in the use of language, but at least in a subpopulation may instead stem from motor and oral motor issues. Clinical reports of disparity between receptive vs. expressive speech/language abilities reinforce this hypothesis. Our early-intervention clinic develops skills prerequisite to learning and communication, including sitting, attending, and pointing or reference, in children below 6 years of age. In a cohort of 31 children, gross and fine motor skills and activities of daily living as well as receptive and expressive speech were assessed at intake and after 6 and 10 months of intervention. Oral motor skills were evaluated separately within the first 5 months of the child's enrolment in the intervention programme and again at 10 months of intervention. Assessment used a clinician-rated structured report, normed against samples of 360 (for motor and speech skills) and 90 (for oral motor skills) typically developing children matched for age, cultural environment and socio-economic status. In the full sample, oral and other motor skills correlated with receptive and expressive language both in terms of pre-intervention measures and in terms of learning rates during the intervention. A motor-impaired group comprising a third of the sample was discriminated by an uneven profile of skills with oral motor and expressive language deficits out of proportion to the receptive language deficit. This group learnt language more slowly, and ended intervention lagging in oral motor skills. In individuals incapable of the degree of motor sequencing and timing necessary for speech movements, receptive language may outstrip expressive speech. Our data suggest that autistic motor difficulties could range from more basic skills such as pointing to more refined skills such as articulation, and need to be assessed and addressed across this entire range in each individual."

          Read the full article HERE

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          Horns, Whistles, Bite Blocks and Straws by Pam Marshalla

          Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

          This excellent article by Pam Marshalla, MA, CCC-SLP is posted on the Oral Motor Institute site and discusses how some tools and methods have been categorized as "nonspeach oral motor exercises" (NSOME) but these same tools and methods were used by Van Riper and other pioneers of articulation therapy.

          Click here to Read

          PLEASE READ!

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