Speech Therapist 2.0 – Designed for parents, fits in your hand

I have found that the most difficult thing for a lot of parents to do when trying to correct their children’s speech errors on their own is to teach that initial correct production of a sound. That is why I was so excited to discover Speech Buddies. While I just recently obtained my own set of Speech Buddies and have not had an opportunity to use them as much as I would like, I am impressed with their concept and design. Speech Buddies are innovative tools that claim they can help parents teach the correct production of a sound through tactile means when auditory and visual training methods haven’t worked. I am excited to see how these will incorporate into therapy and hope they can speed up the process of eliciting difficult sounds. For those of you that have had difficulty teaching the r, l, ch, s, and sh sounds these may be just the tools for you. If you’ve already tried speech buddies I would love to hear your feedback.



Speech therapists use three different methods to teach children the correct production of problem sounds. The three different methods include:

  • auditory training
  • visual training
  • tactile training

Auditory training involves having the child listen to multiple correct productions of the target sound. Visual training involves visually showing the child how to position his/her tongue, lips, teeth and jaw. Tactile training focuses on teaching children to feel the correct tongue placement and movement necessary to produce the correct sound.

Speech Buddies are a new set of tools that have embraced the tactile learning method. These tools make it easy for parents to teach the correct placement of the tongue which should lead to the correct production of the target sound.

How tactile learning works:

Tactile learning works by providing a target inside the mouth so the tip of the tongue can feel the precise location required to pronounce a sound correctly. Through repetition, feeling this correct tongue placement promotes re-learning of the correct motions of speech and ultimately mastery of these complex muscle movements.

Speech Buddies embrace tactile learning by offering a sound-specific tool depending on the child’s needs. There are Speech Buddies offered to help with R, S, CH, L, and SH sounds.

This entry we will focus on correcting the “S” sound, though many of these tactics are appropriate for all problem sounds. The S-Buddy or Seal Buddy, corrects for a number of different S errors (frontal and lateral) by helping kids place the tongue precisely behind the teeth, exactly where it needs to be to say a perfect “S”. The Seal Speech Buddy has been specially designed so that nearly every word can be pronounced perfectly with the Speech Buddy in the mouth.

There are three basic steps to get started using your S-Speech Buddy for tactile learning:


If the tongue tip is touching the target, the correct sound should be produced. It may take several attempts, but keep practicing! Correct pronunciation with your Speech Buddy leads to correct pronunciation without your Speech Buddy.

Speech Buddies in Practice:

The standard process of articulation therapy – progressing first from repeating the sound by itself, then to syllables, words, sentences, and finally conversation – is the same when using tactile learning, the trick lies in when to use the tactile cue or target. Although each child is a unique case, the following chart gives some guidance on how often you should use your Speech Buddy.

How often to use your Speech Buddy:

Start with the sound in isolation and use the Speech Buddy nearly every attempt at the sound. As your child starts to achieve correct pronunciations nearly every time with the Speech Buddy, try alternating, with and without the Speech Buddy. As your child makes progress, switch to every 4th cue until the sound is being said correctly almost every time.

After the sound has been mastered in isolation, try pronouncing syllables (sa, se, si, so, su) and finally words that contain the problem sound (sock, silly, sundae). Try using words that have the sound in the beginning, middle and end of the word (saw, castle, dress). As your child masters words, move onto practicing sentences without the Speech Buddy. You can always go back and repeat each step as a child learns and improves.

Other Important Tips:

  • If your child is over the age of four, it may be appropriate and easier for him to the use Speech Buddy himself. This will not only enhance his confidence, but gives him the opportunity to learn correct speech while doing homework or watching TV!
  • Additional training videos can be found on the Speech Buddy website as well as information on research studies showing the effectiveness of Speech Buddies and the tactile learning method.
  • Although parents have made great progress on their own with Speech Buddies, the fastest and best way to help your child is to use your Speech Buddy not only at home but in therapy with a speech therapist.

Now that you understand how to use tactile learning at home, you should be ready to get started. Most importantly, remember to have fun! Give your child exciting words to say, name objects around your house, bring your Speech Buddy to the park and see if your child can name everything with an S-sound (slide, sandbox, swing). Making practice fun will be rewarding for both you and your child.

Gordy Rogers, M.S. CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and co-founder of Articulate Technologies, Inc.

32 Responses to “Speech Therapist 2.0 – Designed for parents, fits in your hand”

  1. Amy White says:

    Interesting…I am a Mom first and for most, but practiced as a SLP within an elementary/middle school setting as well as in a pediatric thererpy clinic for 6 years prior to becoming a stay at home mom. I like the concept of the speech buddy and am curious to see how it works. Just think how quickly articulation errors could be remediated if parent’s used these little “buddies” at home. Artic therapy 1 time/week + daily practice at home with tactile cue=speedy and effient remediation.

  2. liz says:

    I am currently a practicing SLP and have been looking at these speech buddies for a while but wasn’t sure if how effective they would be. Heidi, please please let us know if they are worth the $$ :)

  3. Halcyon Binder says:

    I love the idea of these tools! I am not a practicing SLP, but I am in the undergrad program at my local university. I don’t know about the rest of us, but I think that having adult versions of these tools might be useful! Adults, too, might enjoy having implements that teach them how to effectively articulate sounds.

    I do look forward to updates on this particular piece of equipment, however! Thanks for featuring this! :-)

  4. s clark says:

    Hi there. I have recently purchased the “S” speech buddy for my 6 year old son who has struggled with a lisp since he could speak. He was a thumb sucker even in the womb and has an interdental lisp and tongue protrusion when he tries to say his “s” sound. Well, we are still in the beginning stages of using the tool, but so far, I really like it. We are not in the position to be able to afford speech therapy right now unfortunately.. cost is going to run along the lines of $1200+ (yikes)… so I thought I’d give this a try and see what we can get accomplished from home. I’ve downloaded the sheets from this site and will start on those soon. We only do about 5 minutes a day (his frustration level can be high at times) so we do it, make it fun, then we’re done! I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

    So far, I can already see some progress. He understands the placement of his tongue now (thanks to the speech buddy) and can even correct himself without the buddy. He seems to do better when the “s” sound is at the beginning of the word and has difficulty on words like “also” and “whistle”. But what I’m most excited about is that he can now hear when the sound is off. I haven’t seen him correct himself when he’s just having conversation yet… but when we are in our “therapy” he takes the time and says the word until he gets it. Sometimes that’s with the Buddy, sometimes not!

    I’m totally open to whatever resources I can get my hands on to help my little guy out, so if you have any other advice, please send it my way!!!

  5. SuzieSLP says:

    s clark- you are entitled to speech services if your child is enrolled in the public school. Ask his teacher to have his speech screened.
    I’ve just started using these today and I really like them. There’s only one student that isn’t getting it with these and that’s due to poor differentiation of the jaw and tongue. He keeps moving his jaw and opening his mouth when unrolling the ‘r’ speech buddy. I’m planning on falling back to oral motor training while continuing to use this tool. With my other students it’s been fantastic though…totally worth it! Try benefect botanical disinfectant with it and you’ll be very pleased!

  6. Elaine Wohl says:

    Heidi, your concept is intriguing and I am interested in seeing a demo, particularly of the /r/ sound before considering a purchase. Would you happen to have this?

    Elaine Wohl, M.Sc., S-LP

  7. Heidi says:

    Elaine,

    I am new to speech buddies myself. I just recently obtained my own set. Just the other day I used the S speech buddy in therapy with a girl who has an interdental lisp. It worked beautifully in the first session. I was so excited! I have only tried the R speech buddy with a few clients and I am still unsure of how effective it is. For more information check out the Speech Buddies web site. Hopefully they will be able to answer some of your questions. If you do decide to go ahead and get them I would love to hear how they work for you.

  8. s clark says:

    Hi Heidi,
    My son attends an independent school (we have been very fortunate since we live in a TERRIBLE area for public schools–dangerous area). He was screened at the school but they don’t offer speech therapy. I tried to contact the public school in our area (since we DO still pay taxes for the public school, I thought, maybe we could still use the services)… well, as of 3 years ago, that answer has changed to a NO. They said he would have to attend the (terrible) public school to take advantage of the free speech therapy… Obviously not worth it to us. So, until we can afford private therapy, I am working with him daily at home, using whatever resources I can.

  9. Karyn says:

    Heidi,
    Hi! I love the helps on your site here. I am working with Lori Overland, SLP. She sees our child once every 4 months and I work nearly daily with him on the program she gives us to follow. He has DS/ASD. She was very interested in your materials. Our child reads well basically on grade level but speech lags way behind. I would love to see materials for the letter f. I know you are a busy Mom but thought I would let you know I am using the material and Lori has been in speech work for about 30 years and encouraged me to use the materials. So if the letter f were possible to put up I would be using it! Karyn

  10. Heidi says:

    Hi Karyn,

    Thank you for your comment. I’m glad your finding my materials helpful. I love to hear that people are using these worksheets and finding success when working with their kids. I have uploaded a lot more articulation practice worksheets (including the F sound) for downloading. There are still some missing worksheets in some of the sounds and I plan on getting those holes filled soon. Good luck with your little one!

  11. CHunter says:

    Here’s my situation…I homeschool my children and our insurance doesn’t cover speech therapy. I COULD force the hand of my local public school (through legal defense means) to provide speech therapy, but that hassle will be a last resort. My local EIRC ordered THe Entire World of R for me to use (free!)and I’ve done A LOT of research and study on my own, but speech pathology and it’s terminology create a HUGE learning curve for me. I’ve been able to roughly target which R combinations and positions are most difficult for my 8yo (thanks to TEWOR) but cannot faciliate a correct R articulation from my little girl. We cannot afford to spend money unneccesarily (even if it’s $150), so do you think the Rabbit buddy would be of significant use for us? Keep in mind that I am her only “therapist” at this point!

  12. Heidi says:

    I personally have not had a lot of experience with the Rabbit Buddy so far. But I think it may be a great tool for someone in your situation without access to a speech language pathologist. I know $150.00 sounds like a lot, but if you are able to elicit a correct production of the R with it, it will be well worth what you paid and then some. Check out the Speech Buddies website so you can make a more informed decision for yourself. And then let us know how it goes.

    Best of luck!
    Heidi

  13. Lisa says:

    Make sure to work with a licensed professional when using these tools. They can be very helpful, but very frustrating if you are doing this on your own. Great post!

  14. SarahS says:

    Hi! I am an SLP that works in a Catholic School. I absolutely love this site and all that you post! Thank you!

    Let us know if you have any updates regarding the Speech Buddies. I have limited funds that I can dip into!

  15. Heidi says:

    Sarah,

    I have had success with both the R and S speech buddies now. I would recommend them to any SLP. While the R speech buddy hasn’t worked for every client I have tried it with, when it works it is pretty exciting! Definitely something I am grateful to have in my “tool box.”

  16. Caitlin says:

    Since he is 6, he probably would not qualify for services in most public schools… if “s” is his only error that is. Keep up the good work! It is sooo encouraging to see parents working so hard with their kids!

  17. nancy says:

    my son is 5years old and he doesnt talk well i need help i dont know what to do about it

  18. Lisa S says:

    Hi Heidi!

    First, just wanted to say how much I love your site and app!

    Do you or anyone have any suggestions re: sanitizing the speech buddies? I’m interested in purchasing these, but as an SLP who works with many students in schools, I want to make sure I clean them properly! I obviously cannot purchase a set for each student I work with.

    Thanks!

  19. Heidi says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you! First of all I think they do recommend you buy a new set for each student. Having said that, I have just cleaned mine with dish soap in between clients. I always check with the parents first to make sure they are ok with that. Does anyone else have any suggestions for Lisa? Thanks.

  20. Heidi says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Have you had him evaluated by a Speech Pathologist? I would recommend you start there. Following an evaluation they will be able to give you very specific recommendations and help you outline where to start. Good luck!

  21. Crystal says:

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) entitles every child to free speech services after the age of 3. We homeschool and the district is required by law to provide screening and services for any child living in their district if a screening is asked for by the parents. It doesn’t matter if your child is enrolled in public school or not.

  22. A Waldron says:

    You might want to try straw and horn therapy through talk tools online. They will help strengthen the back tongue muscles helping the tongue stay in his mouth while he is talking. Kids that are thumb suckers and sippy cup drinkers, sometimes continue thrusting their tongue. You should develop a more mature swallow, but sometimes the thrusting in reinforced with the thumb sucking, sippy cup, and pacifier. As the tongue muscles strengthen the tongue will be stronger and less lazy. You can also so tongue thrust therapy which trains the tongue to swallow toward the back of the mouth instead of pushing forward as he swallows.Also you can do vowel combinations if he is struggling with middle and ending words. Seesee or oso, Asay, etc. good luck.

  23. A Waldron says:

    This message is for all the moms that have been mislead by Crystal’s comment below. Yes under IDEA a child can receive services if they have been determined as having a disability in their speech. A speech error is not determined as a disability unless they score in a specific percentile determined by their district. It is normal for children to have speech errors. There are developmental norms that will show you the age in which children should be able to say specific sounds. In our district a child will not qualify for speech at 3 years old unless they are mostly unintelligible. Yes you are entitled to some services if you home-school, but not the same amount as students in the public schools. Each state has a set amount of time that is offered to private and home-schooled children. Charter schools are funded by the state and children that attend Charter schools cannot receive services from the public schools. After the age of 3, if a parent requests an eval they are required to test your child, but that does not mean that they will qualify. Also the laws are becoming such that if the SLP cannot prove the error affects the students educational performance, they should not qualify for services. Save yourself the pain of threatening a law suit for not having services and nicely ask your SLP for an evaluation, and ask what you can do to help your child if they do not qualify. I believe areas on the East coast have pulled articulation therapy from most of their schools.

  24. these little gadgets seem great. I came acros a blog about getting “s” out and they use a straw I wonder inf it works as well.

    http://www.rosdun.com/blogs/06-04-12_Is_your_child_having_troubel_getting_his_her_S_out/getting_his_her_s_out.html

  25. Heidi says:

    Hi Lynda, I’ve used the s Speech Buddie and it is really cool how well it works. My favorite thing about it is how quickly it helps the child grasp the correct placement of the tongue. The straw is also very useful tool to teach this sound. It works best to help teach the continuous flow of air for the sound.

  26. Jenny says:

    I just purchased an r speech buddy for my daughter and I was wondering should the teeth be closed when saying the r sound? Also should we be practicing the ‘r’ sound as ‘are’ or ‘er’ at first? We do not have access to a speech therapist so I am trying to do this on my own. I can see how to say a word with r at the beginning of the word such as ‘rain’ but it seems like it would be more difficult to uncoil the r buddy when the r comes at the end or middle. Any useful tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

  27. Heidi says:

    Hi Jenny,

    When making the /r/ sound the teeth are slightly parted. To answer your question about which vocalic r you should be practicing, “are” or “er” the answer is both just not at the same time. For example, if your son has been practicing, “are” and he has started saying it accurately then you should start practicing that sound in words like, “army, artichoke, armadillo and artist.” Once he gets those words down practice the “are” sound in the middle of words like, “heart, garbage and cards.” Once he masters those words practice the “are” sound at the end of words like, “jar, star and guitar.” Once he has mastered the vocalic r “are” you will want to work on a different vocalic r like “er.” Practice the “er” sound in the beginning, middle and end of words. There are 4 other vocalic r’s you will want to work on as well, “air,” “ear,” “ire,” and “or.” Just remember, you will be more successful if you practice one vocalic r at a time. Practice that vocalic r in the beginning, middle and end of words, sentences and stories.

    For target words, sentences and stories for all the vocalic r’s download the R Program in Articulation Station for the iPad. You may also be interested in Christine Ristuccia’s Entire World of R or the free Worksheets I have on the worksheets page.

    When working with the R Speech Buddy my recommendation would be to start with the prevocalic r (the r without a vowel in front of it), and then move on to the vocalic r’s (air, ar, ear, ire, or and er) in the beginning of words. Once an r sound is mastered in isolation (all by itself) as well as in the beginning of words then try it in the middle or ending of words. Hopefully, at this point, your daughter will know what she needs to do to correct the sound and she won’t even need the speech buddy any more.

    Good luck!
    Heidi

  28. Gordy Rogers says:

    Hi Jenny,
    I’m the clinical founder of Speech Buddies. Heidi did a great job providing some useful tips on how to use your R Speech Buddy in the home. It might be easiest to begin with R at the beginning of words first, as Heidi suggested. When you’re ready to try R at the end of words, I like to just start with the “ah” vowel. Have your daughter say “ah” while simultaneously unrolling the Speech Buddy’s coil. Also instruct her to slightly protrude the lips as she says R. This is the easy part of teaching R — the tongue is the hard part by far! — but it is nonetheless important.

    Also, please feel free to access Speech Buddies University on the top right of our home page (www.speechbuddies.com) to help maximize your time. The system generates word lists and tracks how your daughter is doing. The parent’s job is simply to judge each time your daughter says R as correct or incorrect. Start with “beginner” exercises and use the Speech Buddy frequently. As she gets more accurate, alternate one word with the Speech Buddy and one word without. This link is to a youtube video which will help you.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMLJC9bFygs

    If you’re feeling stuck, please feel free to email me with questions or to set up a quick Skype session — my email is gordy@articulatetech.com.

    Best,

    Gordy

  29. Jamie P says:

    There are great videos on youtube of SLP’s working with the Speech Buddy. I would love to have all their suggested techniques in a word document. it would be awesome to have a flowchart of things to try. If the child is not doing the R correct in isolation- what are different things you can try to improve it- tension? position?

  30. Althea Ruiz says:

    Hi! I am a Speech Pathology student from the Philippines. I want to purchase one, I would not be able to because upon conversion into Philippine pesos, the set + probable shipping fees may cost 13000 pesos, and we cannot afford it as of this time. Can anyone be kind enough to my sponsor?

  31. Heidi says:

    Hi Althea,

    I would recommend you contact Articulate Technologies, the creators of Speech Buddies with your request.

    Best of luck!
    Heidi

  32. Heidi says:

    Jamie,

    A flow chart with ideas for correcting the r sound is a great idea! I would love something like that as well. You may try contacting speech buddies directly with your suggestion. You may also be interested in Gordy’s most recent guest post on mommy speech therapy called “Tips, Tricks and a Handy Tool for Teaching the R Sound.”

    Best!
    Heidi