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Posted on 26th Jun 2016
Tongue tip elevation is the ability to lift the tip of one's tongue up to the alveolar ridge (the spot just behind the upper front teeth). As a shorthand, we often call this location "on spot," as in, "get your tongue tip on spot!"
Tongue tip elevation is an oral motor skill necessary to say certain speech sounds (t, d, n, l, s, and z). It's also where the tongue should rest during normal oral resting posture (when you're not eating or speaking).
For children who need help with this oral motor skill, start by explaining to them where "on spot" is. Then prompt them to put their tongue tip "on spot." Demonstrate by doing it yourself with exaggerated movement. Use a puppet if needed. For some kids that will do the trick. Others may need a little more help figuring out exactly where their tongue needs to go. There are several different ways you can provide assistance:
• Try putting a dab of peanut butter, nutella, yogurt, etc. "on spot" and have them lick it off for a tasty incentive.
• Take a Probe or proPreefer and touch it to the alveolar ridge - this is a tactile cue to physically show them where their tongue tip needs to go. Then remove the Probe from the mouth and instruct the child to touch the same spot with his/her tongue tip. Followup with tongue tip sound production of /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, /s/, or /z/.
If more sensory input is needed, do the last exercise with the Z-Vibe instead (as shown in the images above with the Fine Tip). Vibration from the Z-Vibe helps bring focus and a new level of awareness to that specific spot.
The best Z-Vibe attachment for this exercise is the Fine Tip - it narrows down to a small point, so it's perfect for pinpointing a specific spot. But you can also use the Probe or Preefer Tip instead. For a visual, watch the second half of this video:
• For a variation of the above exercise, put a cheerio on the end of the Fine Tip, touch the Fine Tip to the alveolar ridge, then have the child touch their tongue to the cheerio. To increase the difficulty, have them hold the cheerio there after you exit the mouth.
• Do tongue pops (one of my all-time favorite oral motor exercises).
As you try the exercises above, be sure to watch for tongue & jaw dissociation. In other words, the tongue should be moving independently while the jaw stays put. If the jaw is moving side to side or up and down, place a Probe, Grabber, or Y-Chew in between the molars to one side and have the child bite down while they practice tongue elevation. This will stabilize the jaw and ensure that the tongue does its own work so to speak, without assistance from the jaw. You may also need to do some jaw stability exercises.
All my best,
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