Oral Motor Techniques in History

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I have heard you say that oral motor treatment is not new. What do you mean?

Dr. Charles Van Riper, the “father” of articulation therapy said that techniques to manipulate mouth movements and positions, for speech sound production, were centuries old in Europe. In the 1960’s, Mildren Berry and Jon Eisenson said that articulation therapy was “as old as the Hitites.”

Last year I began an investigation into the use of methods to facilitate oral (jaw, lip, and tongue) motor (sensory, motor, and positioning) techniques in history. I read 84 textbooks in articulation, phonology, motor speech, feeding, dysphagia, orofacial myology, and oral motor, to discover how these methods were used from 1912 until 2007. I discovered that 95% of these books described, discussed, or recommended the use of oral motor techniques in their discussions of solutions for articulation error. Thus, oral motor techniques are not new.

I kept a list of the terms that were used to identify these methods. Here are the terms listed from oldest to newest:

[These references can be found in this downloadable PDF.]

  1. “Tongue gymnastics” (Scripture, 1912)
  2. “Maxillary, labial, lingual and velar gymnastics” (Borden & Busse, 1925)
  3. “Exercises for weak or relaxes muscles” (Travis, 1931)
  4. “Strengthening and stereotyping the motor patterns” (Kantner & West, 1933)
  5. “Manipulation” (Nemoy & Davis, 1937)
  6. “Visual, tactile, and kinesthetic approaches” (Anderson, (1953)
  7. “Improving the speed and precision of the articulatory musculature” … “Tongue exercises” (Van Riper, 1954)
  8. “Definite stimulation to speech muscles” (Young & Hawk, 1955)
  9. “Strengthening the visual-tactile cues” (Berry & Eisenson, 1956)
  10. “Increasing the flexibility of the articulators” (Berry & Eisenson, 1956)
  11. “Sensory-motor procedures” (McDonald, 1964)
  12. “Improving the function of the jaw, lips, and tongue” (McDonald & Chance, 1964)
  13. “Direct manipulation” (Winitz, 1975)
  14. “Activities preliminary to speech production” (Darley, Aronson & Brown, 1975)
  15. “Sensory stimulation to evoke movement” and “external control of involuntary, abnormal movement” (Campbell, 1978)
  16. “Extraoral and intraoral stimulation technique” (Vaughn & Clark, 1979)
  17. “Neurospeech therapy” (Mysak, 1980)
  18. “Myofunctional therapy” (Garliner, 1981)
  19. “Various approaches … along the sensory-motor continuum” (Hanson, 1983)
  20. “Oral motor control exercises” (Logemann, 1983)
  21. “Motor practice” (Ruscello, 1984)
  22. “Motor sensory targets” (Borden, 1984)
  23. “Lip and facial exercises” (Groher, 1984)
  24. “Myotherapy” (Hanson & Barrett, 1988)
  25. “Articulation subsystem exercises” (Dworkin, 1991)
  26. “Physiological approach” (Fletcher, 1992)
  27. “Muscle training” (Love, 1992)
  28. “Oral motor techniques” (Marshalla, 1992)
  29. “Improving sensory and motor functions within physiologic processes” (Brookshire, 1992)
  30. “Mechanical positioning of the patient’s articulators” (Brookshire, 1992)
  31. “Oral motor treatment” (Arvedson & Brodsky, 1993)
  32. “Oral motor phonetic drills” (Crary, 1993)
  33. “Motor programming approaches” (Hall, Jordan & Robin, 1993)
  34. “Therapeutic exercises” (Tuchman & Walter, 1994)
  35. “Increasing physiologic support” by following “principles of motor learning” (Duffy, 1995)
  36. “Motor approach” relying heavily upon “principles of motor learning” (Yorkson, Beukelman, Strand, & Bell, 1999)
  37. “Treatment strategies and activities … for improving oral motor skills” (Morris & Klein, 2000)
  38. “Oral motor exercises for speech clarity” (Rosenfeld-Johnson,, 2001)
  39. “Tongue and lip awareness activities” (Bauman-Waengler, 2004)
  40. “Oral-motor activities”, “oral-motor training”, “oral motor instructional activities” (Bernthal & Bankson, 2004)
  41. “Touch cues” (Bleile, 2006)
  42. “Methods and techniques that can be used when the client cannot produce a target sound at all” (Secord et al, 2007) (My personal favorite!)

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