This advice-column-style blog for SLPs was authored by Pam Marshalla from 2006 to 2015, the archives of which can be explored here. Use the extensive keywords list found in the right-hand column (on mobile: at the bottom of the page) to browse specific topics, or use the search feature to locate specific words or phrases throughout the entire blog.
Q: My client in second grade cannot make /t/ or /d/ at all. I have tried all kinds of things to activate the tongue tip, but he still persists on saying /k/ and /g/. How can I elicit /t/ and /d/?
Since you have tried so many techniques to facilitate refined tongue-tip elevation that haven’t worked, I would revert to a more infantile way to elicit these anterior consonants.
This is the way babies learn to make a /d/: They protrude the tongue between the lips, and they produce voice, and they move the jaw up-down. Learning to make one’s first /d/ is not about elevating the tongue-tip. It is about moving the jaw up-down.
Adults make /d/ and /t/ with the tongue-tip because the jaw is in an upward stable position. But an infant’s jaw is unstable. He makes his /d/ and /t/ by moving the jaw up-down. This is how I teach my clients these sounds.
Extending the tongue-tip forward by protruding it out the front of the mouth should release the client’s perpetual hold of lingua-velar contact. But if he STILL makes the sounds in the back, this means that he is holding the back of the tongue upward against or near the velum all the time, which probably signals that he has oral-tactile hypersensitivity. He is keeping the back of the tongue high, in the “high guard” or “pre-gag” position in order to prevent himself from gagging as his tongue moves around. In this case, you will need to employ techniques to normalize his sensitivity too.