Yawn-Free Isolation Drill Practice

Articulation drill work may not be the flashiest part of a speech pathologist’s day. It’s repetitive work that some kids just aren’t naturally into. And when starting out in the early stages of therapy, or when introducing a new sound target, making it through a session of isolation level drill work can feel like a chore. But, it is entirely possible to have 30 or even 60 minutes filled with 50 to 100 thrilling repetitions of a single phoneme.

Keep it Successful!

Early on in the therapy process, the foundation for later success is being laid. Across a number of approaches you may use for treating an individual client’s speech sound impairment, establishing correct production of the target phoneme in isolation or syllables is a critical first step for expanding the child’s phonemic inventory and ultimately improving speech intelligibility. Relying on sound shaping cues, visual feedback, placement cues, and tactile cues are all great ways to elicit a phoneme. Try a few out and listen for what’s getting closest to the target sound. Then take that approach and break it down into steps that you can walk the child through so they are able to complete the task accurately. By keeping them successful, there’s always something to reinforce. Once the child is stimulable for the correct production with a model, see if they can get 20 or 30 repetitions.

Keep it Fun!

Fun naturally follows from success because we all like to be good at things! A good rule of thumb is that if the therapist isn’t having fun, the child probably isn’t either. Be blown away by the small successes the child is making as they’re working to figure out how to make this new sound. Tell them you appreciate how hard they’re working. Plan a reinforcement schedule that makes sense for the child’s age, temperament, activity level, and so forth. For example, early on, you may choose a response-token reinforcement plan where the child gets praise or a sticker for every production. Over time, you may reduce the frequency of the token to every five or ten productions. At Verboso, we’ve created the Marine TeamTM app to help kids stay motivated and engaged with video game style reimbursement. Each time the child produces the target correctly, their character casts a fishing rod and catches a fish. After 10 correct productions, they get to advance to a new level. Using tools like this game, therapists can help young children stay engaged and motivated to keep working on target sounds, and the repetition becomes part of the fun as they watch their character catch fish after fish.

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Rvachew, S., Rafaat, S., & Martin, M. (1999). Stimulability, speech perception skills, and the treatment of phonological disorders. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 8(1), 33-43.

Shriberg, L. D., & Kwiatkowski, J. (1982). Phonological disorders II: A conceptual framework for management. Journal of speech and Hearing Disorders, 47(3), 242-256.