At ASHA Schools Conference last year, I entered a drawing for a free trial with a palatometer from CompleteSpeech. I’m delighted to announce that the trial is starting this week! Nine of my artic students will participate. The students and I all had to have dental impressions made of our upper teeth and palates — not fun, but we all survived. The stone molds were sent to CompleteSpeech so custom-fitted “smart palates” could be made for each of us, containing up to 120 sensors that will show the students on the computer screen exactly what parts of their tongue are touching (or not touching) the palate. We will be using the palatometer through the end of the school year. I’ll keep you posted as to the progress.
Since the company mailed the stone molds back to me for safekeeping, I decided to use them as a teaching tool in small group therapy. We looked at the number and position of upper teeth, the shape of the dental arch and height of the palate, and the alveolar ridge; this was all very interesting to the students because they were looking at their own mouth. I then took it one step further. I gave each student some Silly Putty, which we used to make tongues. This gave us the opportunity to talk about tongue shape and width, height, and forward or back position for the students’ target sound. Of course, we have talked about this before, we’ve used the small rubber mouth from Super Duper, and we’ve looked in the mirror with flashlights. But having this hands-on experience was great! Hearing the students say “my tongue isn’t wide enough, my tongue needs to touch the molars, my tongue is too far in the front, I think the tip is down too far” was music to my ears! Just one more example of how getting “Silly” in speech pays off! I am fortunate to have all of these molds as the result of the palatometer trial. But I wonder if you couldn’t do this, too. The next time you are at your dentist’s, ask if he or she will make a dental stone mold for you. Or, maybe if you are lucky, there are some old molds laying around the office that you could have. Never hurts to ask! Then head to FIVE BELOW (my new favorite store) and load up on Silly Putty and let the learning begin.
(The first picture shows the tongue position for /sh, ch, j/; the second picture shows the tongue pulled back and bunched for vocalic /r/).