Tagged "speech sound production"

#tbt: My Best Tips For Eliciting The K Sound

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

This is a repost from Dean Trout’s Little Shop of SLP, with permission from the author.

Upon reaching out to her for permission, here's what Dean wrote: "I found TalkTools to be great for oral awareness and teaching segmentation of articulators!"

TalkTools | Dean TroutDean Trout worked for 31 years as a Speech Therapist in the public school system and for 4 years in her own speech clinic. She started 2 Gals Speech Products, LLC in 2007, spoke at several speech conferences and have been published in the ASHA Leader. Today she creates tangible things that she sells in her Etsy store as well as digital downloads in her TpT store"For you who are new to the field of SLP, I want to give tips and tricks to make your therapy more effective. ... For you more mature SLPs I want you to feel comfortable with technology and social media." 

April 10, 2017

TalkTools | K Sound (Dean Trout)I have often felt baffled as to why kids cannot produce /k/ when developmentally we make posterior sounds before anterior. Think about it, a baby’s first sounds are goo-goo and ga-ga, so isn’t /k/ just a naturally developing response? It makes me go, hmmm. Luckily there are several ways to go about teaching this sound. These tips are not in any particular order, so don’t think Tip #1 is the best. All these tips have been used successfully by several of my colleagues and me.  Please remember what works with one child does not always work with another. We are simply sharing some ideas of things to try.

TIP #1 Cue with “Clear out the Popcorn”

This tip is not EBP and I am not trying to pass it off as such.  I am just sharing an out of the box idea for when all else has failed.  In my many years of practice, I have found that the major reason a child cannot imitate a sound from our model and demonstration is simply that they don’t understand what we are telling them to do. They just don’t “get it.” It also seems that they more often than not just don’t get it when we try to show and explain how to do those sounds that are made in the back of our mouths: /k/, /g/, /r/. So to help them “get it” I try to relate the sound to something to which they are familiar. Most all of us have eaten popcorn and don’t we all, at times, get a husk caught on the back of our tongue and have to clear it out? That is what I use to help them understand what I mean by the back of the mouth or back of the tongue, etc. Every child I have had in therapy can show me with 100% accuracy where the front and back of the mouth is located on a drawing and can point to the front and back of their own mouths, but yet cannot put their own tongues there. To teach them how to find and lift the back of their tongues, we practice that horrible hacky-growly guttural sound we make when clearing out the popcorn. We do this until I feel they fully understand what I mean when I say use the back of your tongue. Once they “get it” you can shape it into a beautiful /k/ in isolation and begin your regular therapy. If they forget to get their tongue up when drilling syllables or words, just cue with “clear out the popcorn.”

If you really want to be the fun “speech teacher” why not bring some popcorn to eat in therapy? Just check for food allergies first ;)

TIP#2 Cereal

You can also get correct tongue positioning for /k/ using cereal-Cheerios or Fruit Loops. This approach is taught by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson in her Talk Tools program. Basically, what you do is place the cereal behind the bottom front teeth and have the child place the tip of his tongue in the cereal hole and hold it there to keep the tip down while making the /k/ using the back of the tongue. This technique is explained in detail in the Talk Tools program. Here is the link to the website. http://www.talktools.com/ I highly recommend you learn how to implement this technique because it is effective. It is great for kids who front the back sounds and need the tactile cueing.

TIP #3 Tactile Cues—Holding the Tip and Blade

For years I have had kids to use their own finger to hold the tongue tip down to get the correct position for /k/ when they were substituting /t/ for/k/. Many times they will have to not just hold the tip but the tongue blade as well. You can start out with them holding only the tip down while they say /k/, but if they start making the /k/ with the blade of their tongue mid palate you will have to have them hold more of the tongue down and push the tongue further back in their mouths. This has been exceptionally effective at achieving a good /k/ sound. Many people do not like this approach, but if it works then I say use it. I have had some kids who have had to use their finger to hold their tongue down not only in isolation but through syllable and even a few into words (gasp)! However, never fear, I have never had a kid graduate from speech therapy and still have their finger in their mouth!! I never ask them to quit using their finger. They eventually get tired of using it and stop on their own. Don’t you think we sometimes worry too much about the little things?

When implementing this strategy if you are the one holding the child’s tongue via your own gloved hand, finger cot, or tongue depressor be careful of a hyper gag reflex. If you find a child with a hyper gag, you have two choices: 1) desensitize the gag reflex or 2) don’t use this approach. If the child can tolerate you inside his mouth a nice little tip is to use flavored toothpaste on a dental swab. It is just less invasive tasting.

TIP# 4 Use Gravity

Some children need a little more help learning to elevate the back of their tongue, and gravity helps! There are suggestions to have the children let their head lean over the back of their chair or have them lie on the floor. Personally, I have had no success with using the chair technique. I have had success doing therapy while the child is lying on his/her back on the floor. Initially, I just have the child lie on his back on the floor and do some deep breathing exercises to help him relax. I will sometimes lay a book on his stomach for this. They can see the book rise and fall as they breathe. After the child looks relaxed and at ease with lying on the floor, I begin therapy using the other techniques explained in this article. The one that seems to work the best is using tactile cues. I will start with a tongue blade and gently “push” the tongue tip down toward the back of the mouth. If this doesn’t work, I try having the child “cough” really hard, (similar to the clearing of the throat.) Usually, this combination of techniques works within one to two sessions, and we can go back to sitting in our chairs for therapy.

TIP#5 Getting Tongue Retraction

You cannot produce a /k/ without your tongue retracting back into the mouth. To achieve a tongue retraction response, stimulate midline of the tongue from anterior to posterior with a tongue depressor or your gloved finger. Pam Marshalla explains this very well on the websitehttps://pammarshalla.com/stimulating-tongue-back-elevation-for-k-and-g/

I suppose this sums up every tip and trick we have up our sleeves. Hopefully, this has affirmed that what you’re doing is right or maybe even got you to thinking it is ok to try something off the wall in therapy.  I am all for Evidence-Based Practice but sometimes when all else has failed you must try something unique.  It just might work for this particular student.  

I will not discuss or debate EPB, so no need to leave heated comments. 

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AAPPSPA Position Statement - Oral-motor Therapy

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Good news! The American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology (AAPPSPA) has accepted a position statement TalkTools® Instructor Robyn Merkel-Walsh proposed on Oral Motor Therapy.

American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology (AAPPSPA) Position Statement - Oral-motor Therapy

Originally posted on AAPPSPA website.

By Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP


In order to investigate Evidenced Based Practice in regards to oral-motor therapy, an AAPPSPA committee was formed. This Position Statement was written with input and editing from: Susan Arnold MS, CCC-SLP , Kaye Baumgardner MS, CCC-SLP/COM, Mary Billings MS, CCC-SLP/COM, Amanda Chastain MA, CCC-SLP, COM and Denise Dougherty MA, CCC-SLP.


The American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology (AAPPSPA) is a non-profit organization of speech and language pathologists (SLP) and audiologists who work in the private sector. Members of AAPPSPA foster the highest ideals and principles of private practice in speech pathology and audiology (AAPPSPA, 2015). Due to the continued controversy surrounding oral-motor therapy, the AAPPSPA board found it necessary to investigate this topic and forge a position statement. This position statement explores 1) defining Non-Speech Oral-Motor Exercises (NSOME), 2) defining Oral Placement Therapy (OPT), 3) understanding the difference between NSOME and OPT, 4) clinical implications for Evidenced Based Practice (EBP).


By analyzing AAPPSPA discussions, it is noted that many therapists in our organization supplement phonological and traditional models with oral-motor activities to help the patient achieve placement cues, especially for those individuals with muscle-based and motor-based diagnoses. Discussions involving NSOME, Myofunctional therapy, feeding and OPT can be frequently found in list-serve discussions. It was also noted, that not all AAPPSPA members were in support of oral-motor therapy due to lack of EBP; therefore this topic required further review. Clinicians who are a member of AAPPSPA must use EBP to decide if they want to reject the use of oral-motor and OPT based on the evidence, or look into the most appropriate treatment parameters based on the recipient of the treatment, and the diagnosis (Clark, 2005).

The ongoing question is whether or not oral-motor therapy is evidenced based. 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 using a mirror aides in articulation therapy, but many therapists and patients report the value of mirror use when learning to imitate speech sounds. In addition, a single study can prove, that another study is not valuable. No single study has proven that oral-motor, OPT or Myofunctional therapy is an invalid or unethical therapy method.

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) (Bowen, 2005; Bowen , 2013; Lof, 2006; Lof, 2007; Lof, 2009 ), and those who support the use of Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) (Bathel, 2007; Bahr, 2008; Bahr & Johnson, 2010; Marshalla, 2007). Neither camp has large sampled double-blind studies to support their case; however, both sides of the debate have supported their hypothesis via secondary research such as literature review and surveys (Lof & Watson, 2005; Bahr, 2011.)

Oral-motor therapy is an umbrella term that leads to confusion (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010.) Pre-feeding exercises, NSOME, 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 (Marshalla, 2007). Thus far, there is no debate in the field of speech-language pathology that oral-motor exercises can prove positive results on disorders of feeding.

The term oral-motor therapy is in fact the appropriate term to describe exercises to strengthen the musculature, and regulate sensory-motor dysfunction for individuals who present with oral phase feeding disorders. This may include but is not limited to: dysarthria, Moebius syndrome, Down syndrome, Cerebral palsy, and Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD). SLPs involved in the treatment of oral-phase feeding disorders, have evidenced based support from sources such as: The International Journal of Orofacial Myology and the ASHA SIG13 committee publication Perspectives on Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). Numerous research articles have been dedicated to the use of oral-motor therapy in respect to the oral phase of feeding. In particular the relevance of oral sensory-motor function has been documented in the literature (Overland, 2010).

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 Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (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).

Clinicians, who represent the Board of Directors for the Oral-Motor Institute, have struggled with distinguishing oral-motor therapy, from the form of NSOME presented by Dr. Gregory Lof (Lof, 2008). The controversy in the field was causing much confusion; therefore, the term Oral Placement Disorder was coined by Diane Bahr and Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson in 2010 (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010). The two practicing clinicians wanted to define that the therapeutic techniques being used to support speech sound productions were not the same types of activities that were suggested in the current literature, such as puffing air in the cheeks or tongue wagging (Lof, 2008). There is some misconception that speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who work on oral-motor issues, are not working on speech, and this is not the case (Merkel-Walsh & Bahr, 2014).

OPT, which is a form of tactile intervention, is used to create the standard placement for the targeted speech sound and is then immediately transitioned into direct work on that targeted speech sound (Marshalla, 2007). The major difference between NSOME and OPT 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). Children with Oral Placement Disorders (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 (Green, Moore & Reilly, 2000; Pannbacker & Lass, 2002; Polmanteer & Fields, 2002; Pruett-Hayes, 2005).

Despite this clarification in 2010, there have been continued questions, and persistent confusion, as to what constitutes a NSOME, versus what is an OPT technique (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson 2010). 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 treatment plan (Merkel-Walsh, 2014).

OPT is a modern extension of Phonetic Placement Therapy (Van Riper, 1954) and The Feedback Model (Mysak, 1971). It is based on a very common sequence (Young and Hawk, 1955; Van Riper, 1978). 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). Merkel-Walsh and RoyHill (2014) presented this concept at the ASHA Convention:

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);

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.


Based on literature review and analysis of current articles, journal entries, podcasts, texts and monographs, it is determined that it is important to explore current clinical techniques to determine what activities are considered ethical and meaningful to an individual seeking private based speech pathology services. Being both sides of the debate have equal evidence by way of primary and secondary research, it should therefore be AAPPSPA’s position that:

1) Oral-motor therapy is an acceptable treatment method for those individuals who present with disorders of strength and tone, oral-phase feeding deficits and/or Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders. This may include the oral-phase of feeding, oral resting posture, drooling, and overall appearance of the oral-facial musculature. Oral-motor therapy encompasses activities that target the improvement of strength, tone, dissociation and grading of the oral musculature and usually involves regulation of the oral sensorymotor system (Overland, 2010). Oral-motor therapy for strength, tone and the oral-phase of feeding and been accepted in the field without debate.

2) Oral Placement Therapy, a form on Phonetic Placement Therapy, is an acceptable form of treatment methodology for those individuals who do not progress from purely traditional or phonological methodology. The individuals may also present with disorders of muscle strength and tone (OPD), and cannot respond accurately to look at me and say what I say. This therapy utilizes the implementation of therapy tools, in order to provide tactile cues to shape oral placements into speech sound production (Bahr & Rosenfeld-Johnson, 2010; Marshalla, 2007). Once the individual can imitate the sound(s) through traditional methods, direct work on speech sound production should be implemented.

3) The combination of oral-motor therapy and Oral Placement Therapy may be presented concurrently. An individual may present with a comorbid diagnosis (e.g., low tone and an Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder) that requires implementation of both oral-motor and Oral Placement Therapy simultaneously.

4) Myofunctional therapy is an acceptable form of therapy for those patients who present with Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders. These patients may also present with articulation errors that do not resolve with traditional models of therapy. The connection between tongue placement, swallowing, dental alignment and sibilant production has been thoroughly supported by the International Association of Orofacial Myology. Clinical evidence has been documented repeatedly by active Orofacial Myologists to indicate direct correlation between remediation of Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders and persistent speech sound disorders.


American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology (AAPPSPA). 2015. Retrieved from : http://www.aappspa.org/.

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

Bathel, J. A. (2007). Current research in the field of oral-motor, muscle-based therapies: response to: Logic, theory and evidence against the use of non-speech oral-motor exercises to change speech sound productions by Gregory Lof. TalkTools, Charleston, SC.

Bahr, D. (2008, November). 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. Bahr, D., Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2010). Treatment of children with speech oral placement disorders (OPDs): a paradigm emerges. Communication Disorders Quarterly, XX(X), 108.

Bahr, D. (2011) . The oral-motor debate part I: understanding the problem. The Oral-Motor Institute. Available from www.oralmotorinstitute.org.

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

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

Clark, H. M. (2005). Clinical decision making and oral-motor treatments. The ASHA Leader, pp. 8-9, 34-35.

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

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.

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

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.

Merkel-Walsh, R. (2015). Conversations in speech pathology. Retrieved from: http://www.conversationsinspeech.com/.

Merkel-Walsh, R. (2014). Oral Placement to speech: transitioning muscle-memory into speech sound production. TalkTools. Charleston, SC.

Merkel-Walsh,R. & Roy-Hill, R. (2014). Using tactile techniques to improve speech clarity in children with childhood apraxia of speech. ASHA Annual Convention, Orlando, FL.

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

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

Overland, L. (2010). A sensory-motor approach to feeding. Perspectives on Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia), 20, 3, 60-64.

Pannbacker, M., & Lass, N. (2002). The use of oral-motor therapy in speech-language pathology. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Speech Language-Hearing Association, Atlanta, GA.

Polmanteer, K., & Fields, D. (2002). Effectiveness of oral-motor techniques in articulation and phonology treatment. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Atlanta, GA

Pruett-Hayes, S. (2005). Comparison of two treatments: Oral-motor and traditional articulation treatment. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Speech Language-Hearing Association, San Diego, CA.

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

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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ASHA Poster 2012

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Variability of Tongue-Tip Placement: Acoustically Standard Production of /s/ Cross-Culturally

Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. (2012, November). Poster session presented at the Annual ASHA Convention. Atlanta, GA.

Variabilty of Tongue-Tip Placement_ASHA Poster 2012_Page_1


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

Rosenfeld-Johnson, S. 2010. Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) for /s/ and /z/. Charleston, SC: TalkTools.

Secord, W., Boyce, Donohur, J.,Fox, R. Shine, (2007) Eliciting Sounds: Techniques and Strategies for Clinicians. Cengage Learning.

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