Q: There seems to be a shocking lack of knowledge “out there” about how to do articulation therapy. I recently saw a girl with an R distortion who had been in therapy with another therapist for a year with no progress. I was able to get a correct sound from her in 15 minutes! The mother was amazed that I actually worked on tongue movement and placement.
I agree, and I think I know why this is occurring. The tried-and-true methods of traditional articulation therapy are being tossed aside for lack of research. If there is no modern-day “proof” that a method words, it simply is ignored or treated with distain. Thus modern generations of SLPs are not being taught the simple procedures of our founders.
We have gone full circle in our profession, back to articulation therapy the way it was done BEFORE Van Riper. Van Riper explained that the reason he wrote his first text in 1939 was to counter the then common practice of simply having clients repeat words over and over again as a way to correct phonemes. He said––
“All the clinician would do was to ask the client to repeat [words] after her… That would go on for an hour. They felt that such a bombardment would lead to error elimination. Can you imagine that?” (Van Riper, 1993).
Now we have young therapists being taught that that is the way to do articulation therapy. I went to a conference recently where a professor was teaching how to do articulation therapy by working in the classroom. She was advocating instructing all the kids at the same time by leading group activities. She was providing no individual instruction and said it was no longer necessary!
This is old-time speech improvement, not articulation therapy.
I asked this professor about the learning differences and the problems in brain function that the truly speech impaired had. She seemed to have no idea what I was talking about, and she treated me as if I was off on some kooky tangent. I said, “But their brains don’t work the way the average child does. And what about oral movement? How will you train better jaw, lip, and tongue control in large group activities?” She just stared back at me. About half the audience knew what I was talking about, and the other half had no clue.
I am calling on all professors who teach articulation/phonology to get hold of an old Van Riper text and READ IT. I also am calling on them to carry a small caseload of clients themselves to actually discover what it takes to change phoneme production. There is no excuse for a professor of articulation/phonology not to know what articulation therapy really is. You have no business training students to do something you have no clue how to do. Learn it, or get an SLP with a Master’s Degree who knows how to do this to team-teach your class with you.
- Van Riper, C. (1993) Personal correspondence to Wayne Secord. In: Secord et al (2007) Eliciting Sounds: Techniques and Strategies for Clinicians, Second Edition. Clifton Park, NY: Thomas Delmar Learning. (P. viii).
- Van Riper, C. (1978, 1972, 1964, 1963, 1958, 1954, 1953, 1950, 1949, 1947, 1942, 1939) Speech Correction: Principles and Methods. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.