She's also magical. I will go and she will tell me work on something (the one I remember most is "work on two-word phrases"). I will tell her, "Sure!" while thinking to myself, "Yeah, right! There's no way Ava will be doing that in the next two weeks, she isn't even close." Every single time, Ms. J has been right. Every single time. She was right about the two word phrases. She was right when Ava first started being able to imitate final consonants. She was right about using the hand signals.
Well, this time she told me to work on the /k/ sound. I've been trying off and on to stimulate a /k/ production from Ava. I'll say, "Say /k/." Ava will respond, "/t/". Every time. She just can't make a /k/ or /g/ in the back of her mouth. Think about it for a second. Try to explain how to make the /k/ sound. It would go something like this:
- Bring the back of the tongue up to the roof of your mouth so that you completely block all air flow from your mouth. Leave the front of your tongue down.
- Build up air pressure behind your tongue.
- Now, let the air out in a little explosion by dropping the back of your tongue down. If you do it right, it will make a /k/ sound.
Ok. Now imagine trying to explain that to a two year old. Just not possible. So, when we're trying to stimulate a sound a child isn't making we have to use indirect methods. Sometimes you're lucky and the child can imitate the sound even though they aren't using it on their own. Or sometimes it is a sound that is easy to see, like /m/, because you make the sound with your lips. Then you might be able to help the child make the sound by showing them how. But /k/ is made in the back of the mouth. You can't just have the child watch you.
Ms. J took an indirect approach to getting Ava to make a sound in the back of her mouth. Essentially she had Ava open her mouth wide. Then she used a tongue depressor to hold down the tongue tip which will often force the back of the tongue up. Ava hated the tongue depressor and was happy to open her mouth wide if only the tongue depressor stayed put away. Then Ms. J had Ava imitate a kind of growling, "scary" sound. With the mouth wide open and the head tilted slightly back, making that noise is a giant step towards making a /k/ sound because you're making a sound way in the back of the mouth by moving the back of the tongue up. That's the first step we needed. Hopefully over the next two weeks I will be able to use that technique to shape a true /k/ sound from Ava.
If you had asked me two days ago if I thought there was even a possibility of getting a /k/ out of Ava in the next couple of weeks I would have said, "No way, absolutely not." One visit with Ms. J later and I think there's a distinct possibility. Magic I tell you. Magic.