Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stimulability from a New Perspective

As I was taking a course dutifully working towards earning my 15 continuing education credits for this year I came across an interesting article that reminded me of several concepts in articulation/phonology treatment that I hadn't had time to think about recently.

In a nutshell, I was taught to address the error sounds a child is stimulable for first. That seems to make sense. In theory they would make progress faster and with less frustration than with sounds that are harder for them.

The article I read claimed that more recent research (I have not had time to look up the source articles yet, so take this with a grain of salt until I can confirm.) shows that often, children will acquire the sounds they are stimulable for on their own given time. Therefore, time in therapy should be spent on the sounds they are least stimulable for. If you spend 3 months establishing and working on /k/ and in the meantime, the /t/ which they were stimulable for pops in on its own, the child now has some mastery of two sounds at the end of that time period instead of just one.

This therapist chooses two targets to work on with a child at any given time. She chooses the two most complex sounds the child is not stimulable for that have the most contrast (voicing, manner, place). This is an entirely different model of choosing targets than I was taught to use, but the idea is intriguing.

I have two questions for any readers that might want to discuss this:
  1. Have you encountered this approach to articulation/phonology therapy before, and what do you think?
  2. If you agree that this approach has merit, do you think that this approach also applies to children with motor planning problems (apraxia)?


  1. I agree that sounds which children are stimulable for may pop up on their own time, BUT to me, the approach mentioned above seems counterintuitive. If I think about the reasons, I come up with three:

    1) Goals: it should be a goal to help children with language OVERALL, not just with articulation. A young child should be enabled to SPEAK in the first place, so he develops his vocabulary and grammar as unobstructedly as possible. Therefore, I prefer working on easier sounds first to give the child a possibility to say as many words as possible. The Kaufmann cards follow the same principle: give the child approximations (with the easier sounds substituting the harder ones, if it has to be) and go from there.
    2) Motivation: a child will be more motivated to do speech lessons if the difficulty of the goals is just right (which in this case means: not unnecessarily high).
    3) Maturing processes: With my son, I did work on the /g/ sound early on and got him to say "doo-goo-goo-goo" pretty quickly. However, I did not get anything else, not even a single, nicely placed "goo", let alone other vowels or a /k/, even though we practiced every night. Then suddenly, after more than one year, he started to "babble" with all sorts of velar/guttural sounds. Had I put (even) more energy into those sounds for the duration of that year, instead of working on easier ones, I'm afraid a lot of that time would have been wasted.

  2. I know a couple of children with CAS who did not progress with this approach. Maybe others do but I won't try it because the Kaufman method has been very successful for us.


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