Exploring physical prompts for speech production

Producing speech is a complex process that involves coordination between the diaphragm, vocal folds, jaw, lips, tongue, and more.  Speaking requires motor skills that we must practice in order to learn, like riding a bike or shooting baskets (Marisette, 2016).

Two of the most common developmental speech and language disorders are dysarthria and apraxia.  Both of these disorders can make speech difficult to understand, even for close friends and family.

How are dysarthria and apraxia treated?

Standard practice for helping children with dysarthria and apraxia improve speech quality is mass practice, often with auditory and visual prompts to help children see and hear how sounds are produced (Marisette, 2016).

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests tactile prompts can also be an effective treatment for dysarthria and apraxia (Grigos, Hayden, and Eigen, 2010).

Tactile prompts are becoming widely used by speech-language pathologists, related professionals (including music therapists), and parents.  Tactile prompts use a light physical touch on the jaw, tongue, or lips to support and shape correct movement.  The prompt can be executed by an adult, or the client can self-prompt.

There is a specialized touch cue protocol called PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets).  The PROMPT Institute offers specialized training for Speech Language Pathologists (SLP).

However, you don’t need to be a specialized SLP to use touch cues to benefit your client, student, or child!  There is more than one method to physically prompt each speech sound.

Weisenberger and Mayhew (2016) give an excellent demonstration of K.M. Bleile’s touch cues here.

You can find tactile prompts from Laura M. Kunz M.A., CCC-SLP in her article here.

If you’d like to find a Speech Language Pathologist who is trained in PROMPT, visit their website here.

We hope that this post gave you some new tools to help clients with their speech production.

Please share the tactile prompts you use in the comments below!