What to do about those stubborn speech sound errors...
Some children may be stuck working on a speech sound for years. Or a child may be able to produce a sound correctly by itself, but when produced within the context of a word or phrase they are unable to maintain the correct production.
Why is this?
There can be multiple reasons for this, in a previous blog post I discussed that oral motor deficits may play a role in the causes of articulation errors. In this post I am going to discuss another factor, which is tongue resting posture. Most of us have probably never given much thought to where our tongue rests when we're not speaking or eating. But it turns out this is very important. The normal rest position of the mouth is the jaw and lips closed with teeth slightly apart and the front portion of the tongue resting on the top of your mouth behind your front teeth.
So why is this important?
Wherever the tongue rests is where it is going to move to produce sounds. So if a tongue rests at the bottom of the mouth against the front teeth, a frontal lisp may result (this is when the tongue comes between the front teeth when producing /s/ and /z/).
When we speak the sides of our tongue rest against the roof of our mouth. This allows the sides of the tongue to stabilize so the front and back of the tongue can move efficiently. When our tongue is unable to stabilize against the top of our mouth distorted speech may result.
Our tongue must exert some muscular energy to maintain this position against the roof of our mouth. This helps our tongue to maintain tone and strength for placement and endurance during speech. If our tongue lacks adequate strength and tone speech sound errors may occur especially in sentences and conversational speech.
The good news is that tongue rest position is easy to teach and many children will improve stubborn speech errors quickly once this position is maintained. If you or your child are having difficulty with speech sound errors or notice difficulty with speech production in conversational speech seek out an evaluation with a speech pathologist with experience treating oral motor deficits.
Boshart, C. (2016). The Key to Carryover. Change Oral Postures to Fortify Speech Production.
Katie is the owner of Katie Carney Speech Therapy, LLC, where she provides play based and family centered speech and feeding therapy on the south side of Chicago. Katie has a passion for proper oral motor, feeding, and speech development. To contact Katie visit her website at katiecarneyspeech.com, call her at 773-914-2194, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.