How To Use Articulation Materials

Someone once told me, that if you don’t know the theory about what you are doing and why, you shouldn’t be doing it! I have taken this to heart! I will walk you through my reasoning behind the creation of these materials and how to best use them.

If you want some guidance on how to start treating articulation disorders, this is "my take." Take it or leave it :)

When designing an articulation treatment plan for a student, client, or child, I choose goals and activities based on the motor learning theory. What is the motor learning theory you ask? Well, motor learning is basically teaching muscles of the body a new desired motor plan/behavior. 

The lips, tongue, jaw, vocal cords, breath, teeth (jaw), and velum are the muscles needed for articulation. How they appear at rest and how they move during sound production needs to be consider. If a child is making an error saying a sound, a speech therapist has to assess why the error is occurring (what is the errored motor pattern) and in what context. 

Context Considerations

  • Is the child making errors at the sound level (in isolation)?
  • Is the child making errors at the syllable level?
  • Is the child making errors at the word level (co-articulation)? If so, is the child making errors in the beginning, middle, and/or end of words? Are there specific surrounding sounds that are contributing to the errors?
  • Is the child making errors at the sentence level?
  • Is the child making errors at the connected speech/conversation level?

Once errors are identified and context is assessed a treatment plan can be created.

Treatment Plans Include:

  • The sounds that need to be corrected/new motor plans to be learned
  • The sound position (initial, medial, final)
  • The level of practice (isolation, syllable, word, sentence, conversation)
  • Helpful cues to elicit correct production (tactile, verbal, visual)
  • Systematic way to fade cues
  • A FUNCTIONAL home program

Once all THAT is completed, the HOW to implement treatment is the next step.

Service Delivery Model:

This is the area where I did some major overhaul in my treatment methods for articulation. I first reflected on mass practice vs distributed practice. 

  • Is it better to have longer sessions less frequently such as one, 45 minute session per week (mass practice)? OR
  • Is it better to have multiple, shorter sessions such as 5-10 minute sessions 2-4 times per week (distributed practice)?

I decided to take some data! When a child was seen for one, 30-45 min session per week, he/she had to seen a group. More often than not, each child in the group had a different goal targeting different sounds at different levels. To manage behaviors and keep students motivated, a game needed to be played as well. This model required a lot of planning and behavior management AND a child may only practice their targeted sound 20-30 times if everything was on track. To add to the disaster, the child was missing at least 30 mins of class. Not ideal!

I tried seeing students individually for 5-10 min session 2-3 times per week. I was shocked with the progress each student made. I can say based on my clinical experience and NOT RESEARCH (I didn’t perform any type of research study) that MOST children made faster progress with distributed practice. 

With this service delivery model, children practice their target sound(s) 100-200 times in 5-10 minutes and the practice is "non-errored.” Not to mention, there is a huge reduction in planning and behavior management on my part. 

Materials Used In Treatment

There is a lot of research out there on different ways to deliver successful articulation therapy. I started thinking about what I was doing and what I was trying to achieve with each session. This awareness helped me to fine tune how treatment sessions were planned and implemented. 

1. Drill Practice

Initially, first and foremost and almost non-negotiable, in my opinion, is DRILL PRACTICE.

In order for a person to learn a new motor pattern, there has to be significant drill practice so the muscles can learn the new pattern. Drill practice is typically done by me, the therapist. I want A LOT of non-errored practice. This is achieved by A LOT of practice and productive feedback after EVERY response. I don’t just say “good job” or “try again” or “good try.” Instead, I give VERY SPECIFIC feedback such as “great job putting your tongue on the bumpy part for /s/” or “I like how you got your tongue all the way back for /k/.” If a child makes a mistake, I get specific as well. I may say, “opps, I saw your tongue when you said your /s/. Let’s try again and put your tongue behind your teeth.” Of course, these cues are faded over time to create independence and more natural communication. 

Drill practice is also crucial to discover which cues work best for a child and then fading those cues to a simple verbal or visual cue. This fading is important so the child becomes more independent and more communication partners can successfully use them such as parents or teachers. 

2. Natural/language based materials

Once progress is sustained at the drill practice level and the level of cueing has decreased, I move to language based materials such as answering questions, playing games, and structured conversation.

Drill practice is not enough. A child needs to practice their sounds in multiple environments and with some “distraction.” It is one thing to be able to say a sound correctly, but it is another thing to transfer this skill to procedural memory (generalization). The language based articulation games can help to achieve this goal whether they are part of therapy or part of the home program. 

3. Home Program Materials

Generalization just can’t happen with therapy alone. Parent and teachers need to be involved. There is no way around it!

That is why I focus heavily on a FUNCTIONAL home program. However, as a speech therapist and as a parent, I believe there are TOO MANY WORKSHEETS and TOO MUCH HOMEWORK! I’m not convinced worksheets and homework are even the best way for students to learn. They are tedious, kids rush through them, it is just more one more thing on each parent’s plate, and it takes away from family time. 

So, to make an effective home program, I provide parents with weekly, fun games or functional conversational ideas. It is possible for parents to spend time with their children, have fun, and practice speech. Honestly, it is the most effective way to learn!

The combination of functional games with “How To Say__(Sound)” and “Common Cues” handouts, children have the potential to make FAST progress. To make professional lives easier, each functional game is in a handout format already that can be simply printed and handed to the parent.

Disclaimer: This is a VERY simply overview of articulation therapy. There are many more things to be considered such as what targets/sounds errors will be targeted first and why, auditory perception/discrimination, distinctive features/phonological processes, behaviors, and A WHOLE LOT MORE! I am just covering why I made these materials and how I use them. I will add and adjust treatment plans for each individual student. This is just the core I start off with :)

How to Use These Materials: 

There are many pages of materials included in this section:

  • Weekly home program activity sheets
  • A parent “cheat” sheet which gives definitions for articulation “lingo” 
  • A quick overview of what articulation therapy “usually” looks like
  • General flashcard games that can be played with any target sound 

Materials for each sound which include:

  • How to say each sound
  • Common verbal, tactile, visual cues
  • Articulation games without flashcards
  • Flashcards
  • Picture description stimuli
  • Language based activities
  • Short story

How you use the rest of the materials will obviously depend on the individual needs of your child/client. I will share some general examples to get you started. 

Treatment Plan For Private Clients & Students

  1. (HOME) First, create a home folder and review the process of a home program with parents. Place “How To Say ____(sound) in the folder for reference (VERY IMPORTANT FIRST STEP).
  2. (TREATMENT) Start treatment using the word list. Run through the word list with the child and practice production of target sound within words. Focus on getting a good production and tease out which cues are the most helpful and which ones create the most independence.
  3. (HOME) Review which cues are helpful with the parents and write it out or circle them on the Cue Sheet. Make sure Cue Sheet remains in the folder for reference. Place a Weekly Home Program sheet in folder to practice sound(s) using cues at word level using word lists (drill).
  4. (TREATMENT)After a child can say a sound in repetition, move to drill practice using picture flashcards (name pictures without a therapist model if possible). Fade cues as child progresses.
  5. (HOME) Send home those SAME flashcards and attach a generic flashcard game (more naturalistic practice). Send a different flashcard game each week.
  6. (TREATMENT) Once a child is successful naming pictures during treatment, move to sentence or phrase practice such as “I see______(name the picture)” or have the child make up a sentence using the flashcard word. Make sure to continue with specific feedback for every production. 
  7. (HOME) As a child progress, begin to send home some of the “language type” worksheets for practice. 
  8. (TREATMENT) Next, move on to the short story and picture description tasks (Structured conversation) and give real-time feedback. 
  9. (Home) At this point, sending home the functional games and getting rid of the flashcards for homework is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. At this point, they are only holding the child back from generalization.
  10. (Treatment) Focus on conversational speech. Give the child a conversation prompt and remind him/her to respond using their good sound. Give real time feedback, even though it may interrupt the conversation, to correct an error. If needed, give the child a reinforcer such as a token when he/she is talking for every correct production. This helps him/her to remember to think of their language output as well as their articulation skills.
  11. (Home) At this point, provide parents with the same conversational prompts or “loosely structured” functional games such as the “Meal Game.” 

Dismiss when child achieves 80-90% accuracy in connected speech and/or when progress can be maintained with supports in the classroom or home such as prompts from teacher and parent.

Typical Treatment Plan For RTI Student

I want to share one more idea since it really made a huge difference for me. I do a quick speech program with my RTI students. 

  1. First, use the articulation screening tool to determine if a student qualifies for RTI.
  2. Create a goal using the Google Sheets Goal Tracking Tool.
  3. Send home the Parent Notification of Services.
  4. Create a schedule to see the student INDIVIDUALLY, right outside their classroom, for only 5-8 minutes. 
  5. The students are usually scheduled for 2-3 sessions per week
  6. Sessions are mostly drill and accompanied by a home program
  7. (HOME) First, create a home folder and review the process of a home program with parents. Place “How To Say ____(sound) in the folder for reference (VERY IMPORTANT FIRST STEP).
  8. (TREATMENT) Start treatment using the word list. Run through the word list with the child and practice production of target sound within words. Focus on getting a good production and tease out which cues are the most helpful and which ones create the most independence.
  9. (HOME) Review which cues are helpful with the parents and write it out or circle them on the Cue Sheet. Make sure Cue Sheet remains in the folder for reference. Place a Weekly Home Program sheet in folder to practice sound(s) using cues at word level using word lists (drill).
  10. (TREATMENT) After a child can say a sound in repetition, move to drill practice using picture flashcards (name pictures without a therapist model if possible). Fade cues as child progresses.
  11. (HOME) Send home those SAME flashcards and attach a generic flashcard game (more naturalistic practice). Send a different flashcard game each week.
  12. (TREATMENT) Once a child is successful naming pictures during treatment, move to sentence or phrase practice such as “I see______(name the picture)” or have the child make up a sentence using the flashcard word. Make sure to continue with specific feedback for every production. 
  13. (HOME) As a child progress, begin to send home some of the “language type” worksheets for practice. 
  14. (TREATMENT) Next, move on to the short story and picture description tasks (Structured conversation) and give real-time feedback. 
  15. (Home) At this point, sending home the functional games and getting rid of the flashcards for homework is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. At this point, they are only holding the child back from generalization.
  16. (Treatment) Focus on conversational speech. Give the child a conversation prompt and remind him/her to respond using their good sound. Give real time feedback, even though it may interrupt the conversation, to correct an error. If needed, give the child a reinforcer such as a token when he/she is talking for every correct production. This helps him/her to remember to think of their language output as well as their articulation skills.
  17. (Home) At this point, provide parents with the same conversational prompts or “loosely structured” functional games such as the “Meal Game.” 

Dismiss when child achieves 80-90% accuracy in connected speech and/or when progress can be maintained with supports in the classroom such as prompts from teacher and parent.

PROS:

  • FAST progress, much faster than grouping kids and seeing them for 30 minutes at a time
  • Students get A LOT of practice. In large groups, a child make get 10-30 practices depending on student’s goals and behaviors. In my quick speech, students get 100-300 reps of targeted sounds
  • Students get effective feedback for every production
  • Students miss less class
  • Less behavior management 
  • Less prep

CONS:

  • I seriously haven’t found any yet!

Disclaimer: These recommendations are NOT RESEARCHED! They are based on research and clinical experience. After reading a lot of research studies and trialing a few ideas, I came up with a plan. This plan ended up being quite effective for my private practice patients as well as my response to intervention students and IEP students.


› How To Use Materials


› How To Use Materials