5 Tactile Cues for your Speech Therapy Toolbox

In the journey of one’s practice, every speech therapist picks up favorite tips, tricks, and tools that garner the best results for their clients. “Tactile cues” have become some of the most beloved in my toolbox when treating school-aged children. Kids are highly responsive to multi-sensory modes of learning and adding a tactile element is an effective way to enhance therapeutic strategies.

A “tactile cue” may be defined as the use of the sense of touch to enhance awareness of where a speech sound is made or how a speech sound feels (Halsey, 2023.) One benefit of employing tactile cues is that a child can be taught how to use the tool for themselves—and carry it with them wherever they go! Below are examples of my current favorites:

1.“Exploding /p/:” Since making the /p/ sound has the unique quality of “exploding” with a puff of air, a child can hold their fingers in front of their mouth to feel it for themselves. This is especially helpful for children who present with the phonological process of “voicing” and substitute /b/ for /p/.

2.“Back sound” of /k/ and /g/: An SLP can invite a child to place two fingers where the back curve of the chin and neck meet to feel the back of the tongue working when producing “back sounds.” This tactile cue helps the child easily discriminate between making “front” sounds like /t/ and /d/ and “back” sounds like /k/ and /g/. With practice, the child is able to rehabituate the “fronting” pattern and drop the cue.

3.Combat Cluster Reduction in /sp/ and /st/: While treating a preschooler who habitually omits one sound in the consonant blends /st/ and /sp/, I discovered that using the tactile cue of “drawing” the sounds with the pointer finger was a great aid. For the /s/, I model drawing a long, wavy line on the table. The /t/ or /p/ is a quick finger tap. Then fluidly “drawing” the two sequentially is a great tactile cue for making the blended sound.

4.Tactile cues for Final Consonant Deletion: SLP blogger, Meredith Avren, has a wonderful resource with visual graphics to teach kids how to “slide and tap” to make their “tail sounds.” Kids love to incorporate a toy into this tactile cue as well. My students have used race cars, ice cream scoops, dice, and other objects to slide and “tap” as they produce or mark the final consonant.

5.Gum in the “Bracing Spot” for /r/: As all SLPs know, teaching ways to correctly produce the /r/ sound can be terribly challenging. I randomly discovered an unexpected strategy when getting a Tootsie Roll stuck in my teeth. I noticed how aware my tongue was of the sticky candy in my mouth. To increase awareness of the “bracing spot” where the sides of the tongue press into the inside back upper molars during /r/ production, you can place gum or Tootsie Rolls there as a tactile cue. My students have found this helpful and love getting a sweet little treat!

Suzanne Burleson, M.A. CF-SLP