This advice-column-style blog for SLPs was authored by Pam Marshalla from 2006 to 2015, the archives of which can be explored here. Use the extensive keywords list found in the right-hand column (on mobile: at the bottom of the page) to browse specific topics, or use the search feature to locate specific words or phrases throughout the entire blog.
Widening the Tongue
By Pam Marshalla
Q: The handout from your live class on the lisps has a method called the “Medial Squeeze.” What is it, and what is it for?
The Medial Squeeze is a method I developed to get the tongue to widen. The tongue needs to sit wide on the floor of the mouth at rest, it needs to be wide for a normal swallow, and it needs to stay wide during speech movement.
Some of our clients squeeze the tongue medially during speech and/or feeding. The result is that the tongue looks narrow and boxy, and it humps upward in the middle. Charles Van Riper, the modern day “father” of articulation therapy, said it like this:
“Many speech defectives … can assume only the simplest tongue positions … they raise the front or middle of the tongue instead of the back, and protrude it rather than lift it. It is difficult for them to curl the tip or groove the tongue. Tongue exercises are useful and necessary for these cases” (Van Riper, 1947, p. 169).
The client will do this to himself. He will use the thumb and index finger of one hand for this activity. It is suggested that you try this on your own tongue before you ask a client to do it so that you can figure it out for yourself.
With the right hand: Have the client place his thumb on the outside of the right side of his tongue, and place the index finger on the outside of the left side of his tongue. Then have the client pinch his finger and thumb together so that his tongue is squeezed toward midline. Then ask the client to say “Eeeeeee.” The tongue should widen as he says Eeeeee. In other words, the tongue should push outward on both sides toward the thumb and finger as he says this vowel. Then rest the tongue again. Repeat several times in sequences of wide and narrow.
Recently I have begun to call this activity the “Hee-haw” exercise. Have the client say “Hee” when he makes his tongue wide, and have him say “Haw” when he squeezes it narrow again.
Once the client can widen his tongue voluntarily and easily, teach him to do so as he is practicing his phonemes, whatever they are.
2 thoughts on “Widening the Tongue”
Hey, thank you for sharing this exercise. Regarding speech, how does widening your tongue help improve articulation?
To quote Pam, above:
I think the answer is self-explanatory; a tongue needs to be wide/relaxed to articulate correctly. If a client squeezes their tongue too narrow for speech or feeding, you can use exercises such as this one to teach the client/train their tongue to lie wider for these activities.