Getting the Tongue-Tip to Curl Up and Back

By Pam Marshalla

Q: How do you get a tongue-tip to curl up and back toward the velum for the retroflex R? I have been using cream cheese, but it does not stick to the palate well, and I have been pushing the tongue back, but the child just doesn’t get what I want him to do.

First, using food on the palate is an old-time popular method to stimulate tongue movement, but I never use food.  You have to analyze the stimulus.  Food adds TASTE and SCENT to the activity.  Taste and scent stimulate the arousal system, and they also encourage gross oral movement.  But taste and scent have nothing to do with learning specific new oral movements like curling the tongue-tip up and back.

Second, pushing the tongue back makes YOU do all the work while HE does nothing.  You want him to make his muscles work harder, not less. 

PROPRIOCEPTIVE stimulation is what you want to use, and RESISTANCE is the best of all the proprioceptive techniques that could be used 🙂

The best resistance method I have found to teach the tongue to curl its tip up and back is to use a tongue scraper:

  • Have the client grab the loop with his tongue-tip.
  • Then have him curl the tongue-tip up and back to pull the scraper inside his mouth.
  • Tug outward with the handle just a little bit so that he has to work harder to pull it in.  Tug just enough so that he has to use his own muscles to pull it all the way in.

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