Speech Buddies

By Pam Marshalla

Q: What do you think of Speech Buddies?

I have a set of Speech Buddies here that the creators sent to me for comment. They are a beautiful set of articulation tools. Speech Buddies are part of our return to the “phonetic placement technique” as described by Van Riper. He wrote the following:

“For centuries, speech correctionists have used diagrams, applicators, and instruments to ensure appropriate tongue, jaw, and lip placement. [These] phonetic placement methods are indispensable tools in the speech correctionist’s kit … Every available device should be used to make the student understand clearly what positions of tongue, jaw, and lips are to be assumed”

Van Riper, 1954, Speech Correction: Principles and methods. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, pp. 236-8).

Speech Buddies are reminiscent of the tools that have been used in France for decades. Reference: Borel-Maisonny, S. (1965) “Correction des erreurs motrices de la parole.” Reeducaticu Orthophonique, No. 10.

They also are a direct throwback to the metal tools designed at New York University in the 1920’s that Van Riper called “curious wire contrivances.” Reference: Borden, R. C., & Busse, A. C. (1925) Speech Correction. New York: Crofts.

The R Buddy

I love the Speech Buddy for R, but have not used it with a client yet. The R Buddy replicates the “Sliding Method” that I teach in my classes on R and in my book, Successful R Therapy. The sliding method is one I learned from the old-timers in our field. The Speech Buddy stabilizes the jaw and guides the tongue to curl. It is a very clever design.

The Other Buddies

All the other Buddies for S, Sh, Ch, L are cleverly designed to elicit a gross form of the target sound. They will work like so many other methods to elicit an early beginning to the sound. But the presence of the tool in the mouth causes its own distortion. So the tool will have to be removed and the sound further shaped.

Speech Buddies will prove to work just like every other technique: They will work for some clients but not for others.

For example, I am sure the R Buddy will work great for all kinds of kids, as long as their jaw and tongue function fairly normally. The tool will guide the tongue-tip toward the back of the oral cavity for a retroflex R. But the tool will not make the tongue function in a wide stance, nor will not cause the client to be able to sequence his new R toward or away from other phonemes. A Speech Buddy will not cause a client to become more aware of his error sound or to help him discriminate or habituate for carryover. And so forth.

In other words, a Speech Buddy may help with placement as all phonetic placement tools and techniques do. But therapy for a substituted, distorted, or omitted sound is much more that simple placement of the jaw, lips, tongue, or velum. Van Riper taught us that.

There is never any one method that “works,” but this is what I am afraid people will start thinking about these tools once a little research comes out about them.

I have written the following about Speech Buddies so far that will appear in my next book to be called The Marshalla Guide to 21st Century Articulation Therapy (formerly titled as 21st Century Articulation Therapy) in a chapter I am calling “The Toys and Tools of Articulation Therapy.” This is a rough draft of what will appear in that book:

Speech Buddies®
A brand-name product that is worth mentioning is the set of articulation tools called Speech Buddies®.  Speech Buddies are a set of tools designed specifically for teaching placement for individual phoneme remediation.  As of this writing, there are Speech Buddies for /s/, /∫/, /t∫/, /l/, and /r/.  These tools are constructed of plastic handles with specially constructed end pieces designed to teach tongue placement.  They are a direct throwback to the metal tools designed at New York University in the 1920’s (Borden and Busse, 1925) and the French tools that were first described in 1965 (Borel-Maisonny, 1965).  However, while the earlier tools were designed to facilitate certain oral movements, Speech Buddies are designed to elicit specific oral positions for specific phonemes.

I have not used Speech Buddies myself, so I cannot give a personal account of their effectiveness in therapy. However I own a set and I have watched the available video material on the items.  I believe it is safe to say that, like all other tools, Speech Buddies will prove effective for specific types of clients under specific circumstances.  It would be a mistake, however, to assume that a tool manufactured for a specific purpose in speech will work equally well with all clients.  My concern with these tools is that they are being marketed directly to parents, and that therapists will come to believe that these are the only tools worth investing in.

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