Writing Oral Motor Goals for Therapy

By Pam Marshalla

Q: What is your opinion about writing goals for oral motor exercises when a client has a functional articulation disorder? My training would suggest that working on oral motor skills is appropriate only when there is a motor speech disorder.

When asked how to write OM goals, I say, “Don’t write OM goals!” Oral movement is not your goal. The speech sound production is your goal. Write speech goals.

Speech is movement. Whether you are working with clients who have motor speech disorders, or you are working with a client who has a distorted /r/, you are trying to change oral movement. Therefore, techniques to facilitate oral movements are appropriate. However, that movement should be relevant to the speech sound you are stimulating.

For example, having the child wag the tongue back-and-forth is not appropriate for working on /r/. But teaching him how to curl the tongue back for a retroflex /r/, or teaching him how to lift up the back lateral margins of the tongue for a Back /r/, certainly is appropriate. The old-timers called this the Phonetic Placement Method.

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