Inhibiting Lip Interference During Phoneme Learning

By Pam Marshalla

Q: How do you get a client to stop puckering, pursing, retracting, and tensing the lips when learning R?

To get rid of lip interference when working on R (or any other sound) you need a way to hold the lips back. The child can use his fingers or a Lip Retractor.

  • Fingers: Have the client use his own fingers to pull back the lips.Have the client place one or two fingers inside his mouth at the corners of the lips.Then ask him to pull the corners of the mouth back laterally. (You know what this is. All kids do this sometimes when they stick out the tongue.)
  • Lip Retractor: The Lip Retractor is a plastic orthodontic tool that is used to hold the lips back out of the way when photos are taken of the teeth before braces are put in. I talk about it in several of my books.

With the lips out of the way have the client practice R using whatever methods of tongue placement you prefer. Tell him, “Your lips cannot do the work. Only the tongue can do the work.” Teach the client to hear the correct sound he can make without his lips. Over time, fade his dependence upon the lip pull back procedure. Eventually teach him to use a slight amount of lip rounding to produce a great R.

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