A Challenge to the Oral-Motor Naysayers

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I am a professor and clinical supervisor in a prestigious university program. I do not see jaw or tongue movement problems in the articulation and phonology clients I supervise. Are you saying that someone like me does not have good observation skills?

No. I am not saying that you have poor observations skills.  I am saying that you have not been trained to see what is happening right in front of you.

Consider this: An SLP must go through training so that his or her ears can hear phonemes and phonological processes.  Right?  Likewise, an SLP must go through training so that his or her eyes can see jaw, lip, and tongue movement problems in these clients.

You undoubtedly have developed excellent auditory processing skills for phonemes and phonological processes.  But I doubt whether you have developed your visual processing skills to the same level.  In fact I know this is true because you wrote that you “do see jaw or tongue movement problems” in the clients you supervise.  The problems are there, but you cannot see them.

I would challenge you with this:  If Charles Van Riper could see these problems, why can’t you?  Why have you ignored this aspect of our profession?

Van Riper wrote this:

Articulation cases are occasionally seen who could truly be called the slow of tongue. They can scarcely protrude the tongue… In modern speech correction, the emphasis on tongue exercises has almost disappeared. Yet for certain of the clumsy tongued individuals with whom we work, modern forms of these exercises are very valuable” (Van Riper, 1947, p. 132).

Why are you pretending that oral-motor assessment and remediation is not what Van Riper recommended?  Why are you pretending that this is not part of traditional articulation therapy?  Why have you not taken up this line of investigation?

I would challenge you to sit in on one of my classes on frontal lisp, lateral lisp, and distorted R so that you can begin to see the oral motor problems that are there.  I can assure you that you can attend almost any class I teach in your area at no cost.

Some professor, perhaps you, has to stand up bravely and begin to understand what we clinicians are talking about.

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