Speech sound disorders can be either organic or functional in nature. Organic speech sound disorders may result from an underlying motor/neurological or structural cause. Functional speech sound disorders have no known cause. However, treatment for both organic and functional speech sound disorders involve the use of your articulators- the tongue, lips, teeth, palate, and jaw. Using food can be an excellent way to bring awareness to the position and movement of these articulators. Plus, incorporating yummy treats can be an excellent way to spark interest and vary your child’s usual target practice. Here are a few ways you can use food to target your child’s goals:
1. Smooth Sticky Food
To increase awareness of tongue tip elevation, place a dab of peanut butter or anything sticky (Nutella, fluff, etc.) on the roof of your child’s mouth just behind their two front teeth (the area known as the alveolar ridge). You can also place peanut butter anywhere in the mouth — in the corners of the mouth for tongue lateralization or in the cheeks to practice swiping of the tongue.
2. Small Crunchy Food:
Using a round, flat cereal such as cheerios or fruit loop is another great way to practice tongue-tip elevation. Place the snack on the tip of your child’s tongue. Have them try and touch the cereal to their alveolar ridge. The cereal acts as a tactile cue to increase awareness of their tongue placement.
By incorporating straws into your child’s routine, you are able to target tongue retraction. If your child has a frontal lisp or a tongue thrust, try having them drink from a straw. You will notice that their lips will close around the straw and their tongue will retract. To increase difficulty, you can use thicker liquids, or straws that twist and turn to elicit a stronger suck.
You don’t have to just use food when targeting articulation or oral motor goals. Food can also be incorporated into the following areas:
- Executive function: working memory, planning and organizing, task-monitoring, initiation
- Vocabulary: labeling, describing through semantic features
- Receptive language: following directions (e.g., within a recipe)
In conclusion, food can be used within treatment sessions to support individual goals. It is often an integral tool for targeting awareness of articulators and oral placement within speech and language sessions. Stay tuned for other ways you can incorporate food into targeting your child’s speech and language goals in a fun, yummy way.