Articulation therapy can be easy and hard–easy if a child quickly learns the correct production of the error sound and the rest is embedding drill into fun activities! But what about that persistent case where the child just can’t find the placement, and tongue tension for an R sound or direct the airflow correctly for S?
It is for that latter group of clients that I was so excited to hear about Speech Buddies and anxious to try them with my students.
Speech Buddies are plastic tools that resemble a toothbrush with flexible rubber tips that provide targets inside the mouth for proper tongue placement to correctly produce a sound.
“Tactile learning works by providing a target inside the mouth so the tip of the tongue can feel the precise location required to pronounce a sound correctly. Through repetition, feeling this correct tongue placement promotes re-learning of the correct motions of speech and ultimately mastery of these complex muscle movements,” according to Speech Buddies’ website.
Speech Buddies are offered for the most challenging sounds that we therapists are asked to teach: R, S, CH, L, and SH sounds. With a separate tool for each sound, children can feel the specific placement needed to correctly produce their sounds.
The first Speech Buddy I tried was the SH tool with a 10 year-old boy with apraxia. Therapy is challenging with him and progress slow and steady. He is very inconsistent with his SH sound production, and lately seemed less precise. Before I positioned the Speech Buddy, I lightly pushed the flat end against the tip of his tongue to show him where to place his tongue. He caught on quickly and seemed as surprised as I was that he produced an accurate SH. It has continued to be a part of our therapy going forward.
I’d been working on R with an 8 year-old girl for several months. She has made steady progress, especially when she practices in between our sessions (which is a struggle even when I bribe her with Silly Banz!!). She loved the R Speech Buddy. Once I demonstrated it for her and taught her how to unroll the rubber curl, she kept grabbing it for reference during our session when she couldn’t get a good production. I didn’t find immediate perfection with the R Buddy as I did with the SH. Maybe because the Speech Buddy teaches tongue position as far as curling up and back but one still needs to get the required tongue tension and elevation of the sides of the tongue.
I also found the S Speech Buddy helpful for tongue placement and air flow. I used the CH Buddy with a 5 year-old and she was a bit defensive. It has a longer and higher flexible “v” at the end that may have been too much for her to feel in her mouth. I am sure there will be certain kids who are a bit tactile defensive where this method won’t be the best.
How much do the Speech Buddies cost? Who pays for them? What is the best use of them?
Articulate Technologies, Inc., the company that designed and produced Speech Buddies explains the answers to these questions in their website. Speech Buddies are wisely being marketed as a tool to speed up speech therapy and therefore lower the total cost of therapy. As we know, many children, particularly articulation cases, are not covered by the public schools so parents only have private therapy as an option. The Speech Buddies can be used for extra home practice if bought by a parent to shorten the overall time needed for therapy. Their research has shown speech Buddies to help kids learn problem sounds twice as fast. I think the verdict is still out as to whether insurance companies will reimburse the cost of Speech Buddies. At $149 per Buddy, that would be helpful. Clear diagrams and videos on their website make learning to use the Buddies easy.
In any case, Speech Buddies have earned a new spot in my bag of goodies to treat kids with articulation disorders and I wish their company success!
The above is solely the opinion of the author. Speech Buddies were provided by Articulate Technologies, Inc. for review.