Tagged "Pam Marshalla"

A Modern Look at Van Riper's Phonetic Placement Approach

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

by Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP

This poster was presented at the 2016 annual ASHA Connect Convention, Poster Session #PS02.

Download the poster here  


Presentation explores 1) traditional versus phonological therapy, 2) the sensory-motor system as it relates to speech, 3) the importance of tactile and proprioception in articulation therapy, 4) shaping placement of the articulators to improve speech clarity.  


1. Participants will be able to differentiate phonological versus traditional articulation therapy.  

2. Participants will be able to define the three stages of Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Approach.  

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


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 (PPA) may be more useful for individuals who are not be able to achieve placement cues (Van Riper, 1978). In 1958, Van Riper stated:

"Every available device should be used to make the student understand clearly the positions of the tongue, jaw, and lips to be assumed."

Placement cues are based on the more traditional models of therapy, and rely on the concept that an individual can copy the motor plan suggested by the therapist, such as “place your tongue tip to the spot.” Therapists, however, often struggle with a population of individuals who do not respond well to “look at me and say what I say,” and those who require a tactile-kinesthetic approach to treatment (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010). Individuals with dysarthria, dyspraxia and/or myofunctional disorders may make slow progress, or no progress at all, without the assistance of tactile cues. Even though therapists have heard the debate on oral motor therapy (Bowen, 2006; Lof, 2006; Lof, 2007; Lof, 2009), clinicians are still widely using the techniques because they yield positive treatment outcomes (Bahr, 2008).

Clinicians, who represent the Board of Directors for the Oral Motor Institute, have struggled with distinguishing “oral motor therapy” from the form of “Non Speech Oral Motor Exercises” (NSOME) presented by Gregory Lof (Lof, 2008). The term “Oral Placement Disorder” (OPD) was coined by Diane Bahr and Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson in 2010 (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010). Children with OPD cannot imitate targeted speech sounds using auditory and visual stimuli (i.e., “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 OPD is new, the concepts surrounding the term have been discussed by a number of authors and clinicians (Bahr, 2010; Hodge, 2012; Marshalla, 2007).

There has been question, and ongoing confusion, as to what is a NSOME, versus what is an oral placement technique (OPT) (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010). Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) is a tactile teaching technique used for children and adults with Oral Placement Disorders (e.g., dysarthria), who cannot learn standard speech sound production using auditory and visual teaching methods alone. OPT facilitates the pre-requisite skills in muscle control to develop dissociation and grading in the muscles of the abdomen, velum, jaw, lips and tongue for clients who cannot approximate the standard speech sounds using the instructions. If the client can produce standard speech using adequate placement and duration using only auditory and visual cueing, OPT would not be included in that client’s program plan.

Gregory Lof’s research has even stated that the methods used in Van Riper’s Phonetic Placement Approach are not in fact considered NSOME (Lof, 2009). This is why 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).


(Van Riper, 1954) and The Feedback Model (Mysak, 1971).

It is based on a very common sequence (Bahr, 2001; Green, Moore & Reilly, 2000; Marshalla, 2007; Young and Hawk, 1955):

1. Facilitate speech movement with the assistance of a therapy tool (ex. horn, tongue depressor) or a tactile-kinesthetic facilitation technique (ex. PROMPT facial cue); use every available device (Marshalla, 2012);

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.

TalkTools | Pam Marshalla


TalkTools | Van Riper tools


TalkTools | Van Riper new tools


Bahr, D. (2008). The oral motor debate: Where do we go from here? Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Chicago, IL. (Full handout at http://convention.asha.org/handouts.cfm)

Bahr, D. (2001). Oral motor assessment and treatment: Ages and stages. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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. (2005). What is the evidence for oral motor therapy? ACQuiring Knowledge in Speech, Language and Hearing, Speech Pathology Australia, 7, 3, 144-147.

Green, R., Moore, C. A., & Reilly, K. J. (2000). The sequential development of jaw and lip control for speech. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 45, 66-79.

Hodge, M. M. (2002). Non-speech oral motor treatment approaches for dysarthria: Perspectives on a controversial clinical practices. Perspectives in Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech Disorders, 12 (4), 22-28.

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

Lof, G. L. (2007). Reasons why non-speech oral motor exercises should not be used for speech sound disorders. Presentation at the ASHA Annual Convention, Boston, MA, Nov. 17.

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

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. & 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. (2004). Ask the Expert: A response by Gregory L. Lof, PhD., CCC-SLP. The Apraxia-Kids Monthly, 5 (1).

Lof, G. L. & Watson, M. (2004). Speech-language pathologist’s use of non-speech oral-motor drills: National survey results. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Philadelphia, PA.

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

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

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. Oral Motor Institute, 4 (2). Available at www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

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

Van Riper, C. (1958, 1954, 1947). Speech Correction: Principles and Methods. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

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

Read more →

What Evidence-Based, Oral Sensory-Motor Treatments are Effective for Speech Disorders?

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

NOTE: This article has been reprinted with permission from Diane Bahr of Ages and Stage®, LLC and Robyn Merkel Walsh.

Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP & Diane Bahr, MS, CCC-SLP, CIMI


According to the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA, 2005) “the term evidence-based practice [EBP] refers to an approach in which current, high-quality research evidence is integrated with practitioner expertise and client preferences and values into the process of making clinical decisions.” Note that this approach to treatment encompasses practitioner expertise and client preferences in addition to high-quality research. In June 2011, Dr. Paul Rao (ASHA’s president at the time) said, “EBP is not about identifying the one best approach – it is about deciding which among the many acceptable options is likely to work best for a particular individual.” So, we are going to talk about acceptable oral sensory-motor treatment for speech disorders.


For many years, it was rumored that oral sensory-motor treatment was ineffective for treating the sensory-motor process of speech. Therefore, the Oral Motor Institute (OMI) was formed “to publish monographs that demonstrate the evidence base of oral sensory and motor techniques for articulation, motor speech, and feeding treatment” (Oral Motor Institute, n.d.). The OMI conducted a thorough and systematic review of the claim that oral sensory-motor treatment was ineffective in the treatment of speech problems. This process included extensive journal literature review (Bahr, 2008; Bahr, 2011, Sept.; Bahr, 2011, Nov.; Bahr & Banford, 2012) and textbook review (Marshalla, 2007, 2008, & 2012) which revealed:

  • There are effective oral sensory-motor treatments for speech disorders
  • There is a large body of journal and textbook literature regarding oral sensory-motor treatments for speech disorders
  • ASHA supports research that provides evidence on the efficacy of oral sensory-motor treatments for speech disorders
  • Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) and Phonetic Placement Therapy (PPT) are forms of oral sensory-motor treatment for speech disorders
  • OPT and PPT are not the same as Non-Speech Oral-Motor Exercise (NSOME)


The relatively new term Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) coined by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson (2009) seems to be an updated version of the historical term Phonetic Placement Therapy (PPT). Both OPT and PPT use touch, movement, and tools (which include hands) to help a client attain actual speech sound production. These techniques are used when “look, listen, and do as I say” methods do not work. For example, graded sizes of Bite Blocks have been effectively used to help clients establish appropriate jaw heights as they simultaneously learn to produce front vowels and various consonant sounds (Sacks, Flipsen, & Neils-Strunjas; Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010; Crary, 1993, p. 224). Progressive Jaw Closure Tubes have been used to teach appropriate jaw heights and lip-rounding for back vowels as clients simultaneously learn to produce these speech sounds.

Van Riper, “a founding father of modern speech-language pathology,” described the history and use of PPT in 1954:

For centuries, speech correctionists have used diagrams, applicators, and instruments to ensure appropriate tongue, jaw, and lip placement [for speech sound production].... [These] phonetic placement methods are indispensable tools in the speech correctionist's kit…. Every available device should be used to make the student understand clearly what positions of tongue, jaw, and lips are to be assumed (Van Riper, 1954, pp. 236-238).

In fact, there are many forms of PPT that have been used since the inception of speech-language pathology (Marshalla, 2007, 2012). Currently, OPT and PPT are taught by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson (2009) and Pamela Marshalla (Marshalla, 2008). However, other forms of this type of treatment include Dynamic Temporal and Tactile Cueing (DTTC), motokinesthetics, palatometry, Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets (PROMPT), and ultrasound imaging (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010).

OPT AND PPT ARE NOT NSOME (Non-Speech Oral-Motor Exercise)

By definition NSOME (Lof & Watson, 2008, p. 394) is “any technique that does not require the child to produce a speech sound but is used to influence the development of speaking abilities” such as unrelated cheek puffing and tongue wagging. By definition OPT and PPT use touch, movement, and tools (including hands) to attain actual speech sound production. Some OPT and PPT strategies may incorporate oral, vocal, and respiratory exercise as part of treatment (when needed), but each target is a component of actual speech production.

While confused at times in the literature and perhaps in practice, OPT/PPT and NSOME are distinct entities (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010; Marshalla, 2008). In OPT and PPT, a sequenced and coordinated skill set for speech production is broken down into simpler steps and then combined into the final goal (i.e., the fine-motor function of speech). Similar approaches are used in the fields of occupational and physical therapy. This is a very different process than NSOME which addresses general muscle function (if properly applied) but not speech production.

NSOME has a place in treatment. Across the literature, there seems to be general agreement that NSOME is useful for individuals with muscle function disorders (e.g., those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, etc.) in improving overall muscle function. These individuals have muscle weakness and movement problems throughout the body, and “what you see in the body is what you get in the mouth” (Overland & Merkel-Walsh, 2013, p. 73). When NSOME is used to improve general muscle function, it must be carefully chosen and systematically applied. For example, Ruscello (2008b, p. 294) stated that “there is…a small subset of clients [with velopharyngeal insufficiency] who may improve with treatment using muscle rehabilitation procedures that are task specific to speech.”

Ruscello (2008a, p. 386) also said, “It should be noted that childhood speech disorders caused by neuromuscular deficits…need to be treated accordingly.” In their survey, Lof and Watson (2008, p. 396) found that speech-language pathologists primarily used NSOMEs with children who exhibited motor speech disorders. With the exception of Childhood Apraxia of Speech, children with motor speech disorders usually have generalized muscle function problems.

While McCauley, Strand, Lof, Schooling, and Frymark (2009, p. 343) found “insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of OMEs [oral motor exercises] to produce effects on speech,” researcher Christopher Moore and his colleagues have repeatedly demonstrated (via electromyography) that the neural mechanisms and subsequent motor plans/gestures for speech and non-speech activities are different from one another (Bahr & Banford, 2012). Therefore, NSOME alone is unlikely to improve speech unless it is used with actual speech production techniques. This concept is consistent with OPT and PPT which work on actual speech production through task analysis and successive approximations when properly applied.


When selecting appropriate speech treatment for an individual, it is important to be educated about the treatment whether you are a family member or a professional. The treatment needs to be evidence-based, and the therapist supplying the treatment must be properly trained.

Family members can look for professionals specifically trained in OPT and PPT. While it would be ideal if these techniques were taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels, most of this training occurs at the post-graduate level (Bahr & Banford, 2012). So, family members can look for speech-language pathologists trained in DTTC, motokinesthetics, OPT, PPT, PROMPT, ultrasound imaging for speech, palatometry, and similar “hands-on” treatments.

In thinking back to Dr. Rao’s 2011 statement: “EBP is not about identifying the one best approach – it is about deciding which among the many acceptable options is likely to work best for a particular individual.” Both OPT and PPT are viable options for speech treatment when properly implemented. Forms of PPT been used since the inception of speech-language pathology practice.


American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2005). Evidence-based practice in communication disorders [Position Statement]. Available from www.asha.org.

Bahr, D. (2008, Jan.). A topical bibliography on oral motor assessment and treatment. Oral Motor Institute, 2(1). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Bahr, D. (2011, Sept.). The oral motor debate - Part I: Understanding the problem. Oral Motor Institute, 3(1). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Bahr, D. (2011, Nov.). The oral motor debate – Part II: Exploring terminology and practice patterns. Oral Motor Institute, 3(2). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Bahr, D., & Banford, R. J. (2012, Jan.). The oral motor debate – Part III: Exploring research and training needs/ideas. Oral Motor Institute, 4(1). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Bahr, D., & Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2010, Feb.). Treatment of children with speech oral placement disorders (OPDs): A paradigm emerges. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 31, 131-138.

Crary, M. A. (1993). Developmental motor speech disorders. San Diego, CA: Singular.

Lof, G. L., & Watson, M. (2008, Jul.). A nationwide survey of nonspeech oral motor exercise use: Implications for evidence-based practice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 392-407.

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

Marshalla, P. (2008, Apr.). Oral motor treatment vs. non-speech oral motor exercises. Oral Motor Institute, 2(2). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Marshalla, P. (2012, Apr.). Horns, whistles, bite blocks, and straws: A review of tools/objects used in articulation therapy by Van Riper and other traditional therapists. Oral Motor Institute, 4(2). Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

McCauley, R. J., Strand, E., Lof, G. L., Schooling, T., & Frymark, T. (2009, Nov.). Evidence-Based systematic review: Effects of nonspeech oral motor exercise on speech. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18(4), 343-360.

Oral Motor Institute (n.d.). Home page: Mission statement. Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

Overland, L. L., & Merkel-Walsh, R. (2013). A sensory motor approach to feeding. Charleston, SC: TalkTools.

Rao, P. R. (2011, Jun. 7). Evidence-Based practice: The coin of the realm in CSD. The ASHA Leader, 16(7), 7.

Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2009). Oral placement therapy for speech clarity and feeding (rev. 4th ed.). Tucson, AZ: Innovative Therapists International.

Ruscello, D. M. (2008a). Nonspeech oral motor treatment issues related to children with developmental speech sound disorders. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 39, 381-391.

Ruscello, D. M. (2008b). An examination of nonspeech oral motor exercises for children with velopharyngeal inadequacy. Seminars in Speech and Language, 29, 294-303.

Sacks, S., Flipsen, P., & Neils-Strunjas, J. (2013, Oct.). Effectiveness of systematic articulation program accessing computers (SATPAC) approach to remediate dentalized and interdental /s, z/: A preliminary study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 117(2). 559-577.

Van Riper, C. (1954). Speech correction: Principles and methods. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.


Robyn Merkel-Walsh is a speech pathologist who is employed by the Ridgefield Board of Education, TalkTools, as well as her own practice. Robyn is an international lecturer who specializes in muscle and motor based speech disorders, feeding, and orofacial-myofunctional disorders. She is the co-author of A Sensory Motor Approach to Feeding (2013) and the Oral Placement to Speech Kit (2011). She is the author of the 2002 SMILE (SysteMatic Intervention for Lingual Elevation) program and has published many popular articles.

Diane Bahr is co-owner of Ages and Stages®, LLC (Resources for Feeding, Speech, and Mouth Function) and the author of Oral Motor Assessment and Treatment: Ages and Stages (2001) and Nobody Ever Told Me (or My Mother) That! Everything from Bottles and Breathing to Healthy Speech Development (2010). She has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and is currently an international speaker on the topics of feeding, motor speech, and mouth function. She has also written extensively on these topics.

Both authors are experienced master clinicians and Board Members for the all-volunteer Oral Motor Institute study group.

Read more →

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


Read more →