Assymetrical Lips Position on Sibilants

By Pam Marshalla

Q: My client has been in therapy for a long time for many error phonemes, and now we are working on the sibilants. He is doing them well now, but he tends to pull his right cheek to the side. It sounds correct but looks funny. Does the facial position matter if it sounds okay?

If it sounds correct, I would not worry about that cheek pulling to the side until he is well on his way toward establishing the sound in more advanced work, like sentences, paragraphs, and conversation. Then I might bring it to his attention with a mirror, and ask him if he wants to keep doing it that way. I would tell him that most people keep their mouth even on both sides. Most kids will want to do it like every one else, but you never know. He may think it is cool, and then I would say, “Yea, it is”, and I would leave it at that.

0 thoughts on “Assymetrical Lips Position on Sibilants”

  1. It is my therory that if the student uses an asymetrical lip postion, it is not a natural position. Becasue of that I think it takes additional time for the student to move to that position in conversation. I don’t think kids will take the extra time in connected speech outside of the therapy room. I talk with them about that and move toward a more natural position of lips.
    I appreciate, of course, Pam’s expert advise and will consider that approach in the future.
    Joanne fom Chicago

    1. I was just reviewing some research on the lips for my next book and found an article I summarized as follows–

      Wohlert and Smith (2002) found that 7- and 12-year-old children produced labial phonemes with significantly more movement variability than adults, a result that supports earlier research. Their study supported the notion that adolescents retain more flexibility and more degrees of freedom in speech movement than adults.

      Wohlert, A. B. & Smith, A. (2002). Developmental change in variability of lip muscle activity during speech. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 45, p. 1077-1087.

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