History of the “Long T” Method

By Pam Marshalla

strawsQ: I have seen the Long T Method for teaching S on this blog and in your book “Frontal Lisp, Lateral Lisp” (Marshalla, 2007) as well as in the “Straight Up Speech” program by Jane Folk (Folk, 1992). I was wondering if you had to get permission from Jane for this, or if this method is in public domain?

I made up that method just as I suspect Jane did. But it turns out that it is a very old method that can be traced back to the early part of the 20th century.

The oldest American reference I have seen for it is from Scripture (1912, see below). Scripture’s book was one that Van Riper said we should read for these types of phonetic placement methods.

As far as I can tell, Scripture learned the method in Germany from Professor Guttmann with whom he studied in the late 1800s. The 1882 English translation of Guttman’s book of 1859 was the first to combine anatomy with speech science.  After Thewall (1810), Guttmann was the first principal writer to insist that elocutionists (our predecessors) must understand anatomy as well as phonetics to do speech correction. Speech science was birthed out of this idea.

What I call the “Long T Method” is described in many modern textbooks including: Bernthal and Bankson (2004) and Pena-Brooks and Hegde (2000). I’ll bet that you have one of these books sitting on your shelf!

No modern textbook I have read references the origin of this method. It is a method that has been around so long that it has become part of the public domain, but its origin can be identified as I have done above.

Why Aren’t We All Taught This Method?

What I have discovered in reading historic as well as modern books on articulation and phonology is that good therapists always discover the same methods that “work” throughout their careers. Using T to teach S is one of those methods that is reported over and over again in textbooks published throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. My guess is that many readers of this blog will recognize it as one they too created themselves.

But because researchers rarely put these simple methods through the rigors of formal investigation, the methods often are ignored, or they are reported as “one idea” or “one method that has been tried” or “a method therapists frequently use” or ‘a method that might work.”

A lack of formal research to “prove” these tried-and-true old-fashioned methods means that not all SLP students are introduced to them. Some professors refuse to discuss anything in class that has not been reported in the literature. Many professors have never done therapy themselves, and they simply do not know how to do simple historic phonetic placement methods.

Then, when someone like Jane or I talk about these methods in a “how-to” book we are criticized for making things up out of whole cloth. And if you call them an “oral-motor” method because they involve ways to help the client manipulate his mouth movements, well, then you are crucified.

The Value of a Method

But what I always ask is:  What is more valuable… A method that was researched by one graduate student who has virtually no clinical experience who is being supervised by a professor who also has almost no clinical experience, or a method reported by a clinician who has 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 60 years of experience?

To me the clinical experience is at least as valuable as the method that is formally researched. (See more posts on evidence-based practice.)


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