Phonological Process Series: What is Gliding?

[In this series, we explore the major phonological processes that children use in speech, as well as strategies for targeting them at home]

What are Phonological Processes? 

A phonological process is a pattern that young children adapt to simplify adult speech sounds. All children use these processes at some point in time while their speech and language skills are still developing because they don’t have to ability to coordinate the articulators -- lips, tongue, teeth, etc. -- for clear, “adult-like” speech. Due to this developmental process, children will simplify words in predictable ways until they develop the skills required to produce them clearly. A familiar example of this might be a 2-year-old child saying “wa-wa” for “water” or “nana” for “banana”. 


Today, we explore the process of gliding. This phonological process is a form of substitution, where a child will produce a W or occasionally a Y for R and L sounds. If you've ever heard a child talk about a "wabbit" or the color "yeyo," you've probably heard an example of gliding in casual conversation.

As with many other phonological processes, gliding can be considered typical until a certain age range. After the age of 6, however, this process is considered a phonological disorder.

In therapy, it's typical to target this error using visual cues, as R and L sounds are among the most complex single sounds produced in English. Visual cues can include diagrams displaying correct tongue placement and lip and teeth positions, as well as mirrors for immediate visual feedback.

The minimal pairs approach, which involves practicing two words that only differ by one, target sound (such as ONE and RUN), is also an excellent technique to address gliding. Therapists may start at the sound level itself with visual cues and auditory discrimination activities to distinguish visual/auditory information about the R and L sounds, and then move on to words, phrases, sentences, and conversation.

Have more questions about gliding or other phonological processes? Reach out to a Sidekick therapist or one of our offices today.

Paul Rice, M.S., CCC-SLP


Selected Phonological Processes (