Eliciting Gross /t/ and /d/

By Pam Marshalla

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.

6 thoughts on “Eliciting Gross /t/ and /d/”

  1. Ms. Marshalla,

    I treat a seven year old client who backs. She has had success with “t” and is working on that at the sentence level; however, I have never been able to elicit “d” using any other techniques. I tried this technique today and it worked! So now she is able to produce “duh” with more of an interdental placement for the “d”. This is a big deal considering she has never in her life made the sound. However, now I’m wondering how to go about shaping the sound to get her tongue in the right spot. Would you suggest mirror work and slowly having her move her tongue back toward the alveolar ridge?

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Many thanks!

  2. Thanks – great insight for those of us who aren’t used to working with the really young ones.

  3. It seems that my student has oral tactile hypersensitivity. What do I do to help her, to elicit a t or d sound

    1. Do you have an OT you work with? If yes, talk to them. If no, you could look at buying a “Z-vibe” and the accompanying tips and tricks book.

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.