Q: I am working with a first grader who completely shifts his jaw to the left when he produces lateralized “Sh” and “Ch”. I am trying to work on his jaw, but it requires me to firmly give manual jaw stabilization even in isolation. Is it possible to change this strong habit of lateralizing the jaw?
You are on the right track, but you are going about it in a less-than-optimum way. When we use manual jaw stabilization like you described, it takes control AWAY from the child. He will have to relax his jaw so you can manually put it into position. Instead, use a method that puts HIM in control of his jaw. This is what I would do:*
- Give him a straw to bite down on with his molars on one side. **Have the straw come in from the front of the mouth, and have it line up along the line of the teeth so that it does not interfere with lip or tongue movement.
- Have the client bite down on the straw while he is doing his speech work with you. Do this just for a while – until he figures out how to control his jaw position. This puts HIM in control of his own jaw position.
- Make sure to ell him what’s going on. Say things like: “Bite down here… Hold your jaw steady… Don’t let it shift to the side…” and so forth.
- Then use the “Long T” method to teach the sibilants.
* I have described all this in my book called Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp
** This is the standard “Bite Block” method. Bite block, or bite sticks, are firm tools designed for biting down on. I like to use straws because straws are flexible and can be used to adjust the jaw slightly more upward or downward. Straws also are very inexpensive, often free.