“We need to write a letter to your tongue so that it will know what to do. What directions do we need to give your tongue?”
The students generate directions and tips that we write on a card. A “Dear Tongue” letter for /r/ might be:
• Remember to go to the back of the mouth
• Lift up the sides a little bit so you can feel the molars
• Relax just a little bit so you don’t get too stiff
• I believe in you. You can do it!”
Letters can be written to each of the active articulators, including the lips and the jaw. The directions will vary depending on the target sound. For /s/, a letter might be:
• Remember to lift up high right behind the front teeth
• Lift just the sides even more so that they can touch the inside of the top teeth
• Make a tiny dip in the center of the tongue so that the air can come through the middle
• You are strong. You can do it!”
Letters have specific directions, based on guided feedback of techniques and strategies that were helpful during the session. Questions are used to highlight successes, such as “You lifted the tip of your tongue up high! Did that help you make your sound?” Letters have encouragement and affirmations. Using positive words provides a model of positive self-talk.
Personification of the articulators encourages clients to recognize the volitional control that they have to change movements in specific ways. Personification allows a client to separate their own identity from the challenges or difficulties related to approximations and error productions. The ability to alter a habitual motor pattern in precise ways requires an intense amount of concentration and vigilance. Making the tongue a partner in the intervention process helps clients focus their energies to monitor designated movements.
We congratulate our tongues when they are successful. We give pretend “high-fives” to our tongues, by making a “high-five” sign in the air near the mouth. We give ourselves a “pat-on-back” to celebrate the tongue’s movement and correct placement.
When you give human qualities to an entity, you are able to ascribe feelings and form understanding. We are able to have compassion and we do not place blame. We can give our articulators encouragement and direction. We can recognize that our articulators are doing the best that they can!