Oral Placement Therapy?

Do you have difficulty understanding your child’s speech?  Does your child avoid certain foods or choke during meals? Does you child drool? If so, OPT can help.

Can an SLP Help?

If your child is having difficulty producing certain speech sounds or you have noticed that others have difficulty understanding what your child is saying, seeking out a speech and language assessment with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is the place to start.

Similarly, if your child has challenges eating, chewing, and/or swallowing food an SLP can help.  One of the recommendations that might be made for your child is to implement Oral Placement Therapy (OPT).

OPT is a unique oral-motor therapy approach developed by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson.  This therapy approach is used by SLPs to target specific oral-motor movements to enhance speech clarity and feeding.

It is one piece of a comprehensive speech and language program that can be developed for your child.

What does Oral Placement Therapy consist of?

OPT consists of a variety of tools and exercises that can build specific muscles and enhance motor movements for speech production.

This therapy approach allows the child to feel the movements necessary to produce the speech sounds that are difficult for them in addition to hearing and seeing how the sound is produced.

The activities are designed to be fun and motivating for children to complete both with their SLP and at home.

Example 1

A very common example is children who have reduced lip strength leading to limited lip rounding/protrusion or lip closure for speech production.

These children may have difficulty drinking from a straw or blowing out candles or they may drool.

Lip rounding is an essential movement to accurately produce sounds such as “w” in “water,” “sh” in “shoe,” and the “oo” vowel as in “move.”

If your child has weak lip rounding it may cause their speech to be difficult to understand.

Playing and bubbles

To improve a child’s production of sounds that require lip rounding, bubbles are a frequently used OPT technique.

Children are taught a very specific sequence of steps to give them the ability to produce the motor movements to independently blow bubbles.  When accurate motor movements are achieved these skills are transferred immediately into speech practice.

What could be more fun than time spent playing and blowing bubbles to improve your child’s speech clarity?

Example 2

Another example of a very common and very beneficial OPT activity is gum chewing.

Who would have guessed that you may seek the advice of an SLP and one of the recommendations will be to chew gum?  OPT incorporates a very structured approach to gum chewing to help address jaw, lip, and tongue functioning.

This technique can have very beneficial effects for speech production, to reduce drooling, and to help your child chew and swallow food safely.

Successful treatment approach

OPT is a treatment approach that has been used successfully with a variety of populations including children with reduced speech clarity, children with Downs Syndrome, children with Cerebral Palsy, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and children with feeding and swallowing challenges.

5 Tips for Putting Together a Great Presentation – Part 1

SLHunter38Have you ever been faced with putting together a presentation, but you don’t know where to start? The content of your presentation is extremely important.

At the end of the day, you want your audience to walk away feeling like they really learned something. Follow these five tips to get you started:

Be prepared

  •  Do yourself a favour and avoid putting your presentation together the night before! This will give you time to run through your presentation, edit and revise your work. Chances are it will take you longer than you originally anticipated.
  •  Be aware of time limits. Work within the time you’re given. There’s nothing worse than listening to someone rush through the second half of their presentation because they ran out of time. Your audience needs time to process what you’re telling them.

Be organized

  •  Create and include an outline of your presentation so your audience knows what to expect.
  •  Ensure your objective or main goal is clear within the first few minutes.
  •  Keep your slides/visuals simple, and remember they should only highlight key points. As a presenter, your job is to elaborate and provide additional information to supplement the key points.
  •  Provide your audience with a copy of your presentation. This will allow them to read while listening, improving their understanding of what you’re talking about (especially if you are using technical language or providing definitions). It will also give them a space to write meaningful notes.

Know your audience

Keep in mind your target audience. Over time, there’s a chance you may present the same topic to more than one group of people. 

This means you may need more than one version of your presentation. You wouldn’t present the exact same information to a group of high school students as you would a group of executives (e.g. education level, purpose, setting, etc.).

Use personal stories and examples wisely

Sharing personal stories and examples is such a great way to connect with your audience. They can reinforce important points and illustrate practical ways to use the information you’re sharing with them.

However, keep in mind your audience wants to walk away feeling they learned something. So, make sure you have enough substance (or “meat”) to your presentation, and ensure that your audience has something they can take away.

Ask for feedback

Asking your audience for feedback (written or verbal), after your presentation, is an ideal way for you to gauge whether or not you were successful at getting your point across. Constructive feedback will enable you to make changes or “tweak” your presentation accordingly for the next occasion. 

And there it is…do you feel better now? If you’re thinking, “I can handle this,” but now you’re worried about fumbling over your words, check out the second part of this series, Part 2: 5 Tips to Improve Your Presentation Delivery Skills.

Help Develop Your Child’s Language While Making Pizza

PizzaWho doesn’t love pizza for lunch or dinner?  Making homemade pizza not only pleases everyone but also provides a great opportunity for learning language.

Cheese, Pepperoni, and Language

Gather all the toppings that the family wishes to have on their pizza and all the ingredients needed to make the pizza.

Use the recipe below to make a pizza with your child and talk about describing words.  While making the pizza ask your child how the flour and dough feel, how the ingredients taste.

You can make comments such as, “Wow, the dough is very sticky,” “The flour feels so soft,” or, “Let’s add some flour to make the dough dry so it’s not so sticky.”                                                

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust:


1 (.25 ounce) package of active dry yeast                            

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 cup warm water

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.

Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and oil.  Beat until smooth.  Let rest for 5 minutes. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round shape.

Transfer dough to a lightly greased pizza pan. Put desired toppings on pizza and bake in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Words to use:

  • soft
  • greasy
  • smooth
  • salty
  • dry
  • sweet
  • warm
  • medium
  • round
  • careful
  • spicy
  • hot
  • colors
  • cool
  • saucy

How to NOT use your voice in the classroom: Tips on non-verbal behavior management techniques

iStock_000003399479MediumThe Classroom

As teachers, you all know that every classroom has its challenges.   When your voice is not the best (raspy, hoarse, fatigued), it’s better to NOT over extend it, but instead use other non-verbal methods of keeping your class in line. 

The following are a variety of scenarios which you may relate to as a teacher, with some examples of what you can do to keep your voice healthy. 

Scenario # 1

You teach a very rambunctious JK/SK class; in order to be heard above the constant ambient noise of the classroom you find that you have to raise your voice.

These younger children attend best when multiple modes of communication are used (e.g. pairing visual with auditory instruction).  How can you still obtain the students attention effectively without overextending or overusing your voice?

  • lights on/off for attention
  • theme music for motivation (e.g. certain tunes to indicate specific class transitions or tasks – for instance theme song from Mission Impossible or Gangnam Style)
  • Apps for volume levels- visuals
  • noise makers- siren (ambulance and police car recordings)
  • get the children on board as your ‘voice helpers’ with a main ‘voice helper’ of the week
  • model a quiet voice so they will do the same
  • tapping (hands, feet etc.)

Scenario # 2

Your grade 5 class is quite a chatty group.  You have a group of girls in particular who tend to talk and giggle amongst themselves while you are teaching and you constantly have to address this with them.

What could you do other than separating the girls – which you have done already – to help reduce the added strain on your voice from constantly redirecting the girls?

  •  teacher stare and wait
  • write names on the board rather than ‘battling’ it out with them
  • centralize the challenging group so you only have one area to contend with
  • discuss with the group that everything they are talking about in their group, they will have to share with the entire class

Scenario # 3

You are a grade 1 teacher and find that your vocal quality worsens over the course of the week; by the end of the day, your voice is completely worn out.

You have 2 students in particular who have specific learning needs and behavioural management – they require a lot of verbal direction and support to complete tasks.

There will be no EA provided for the academic year.  How can you provide the necessary supports without overextending/abusing your voice?

  • use a visual schedule to keep them on task
  • pair them up with stronger students to provide some support   during new learning tasks
  • develop a visual/tactile reward system for positive behaviors

Scenario # 4

You are a Grade 4 teacher and will be teaching your class about public speaking in preparation for the school wide oratorical contest.

However, your own voice is not in good condition; you find it difficult to project and to teach the class about effective public speaking strategies.

What teaching approaches might you use to assist your students in becoming effective public speakers/communicators?

  • bring in a parent volnteer or special guest who speaks to the public frequently to demonstrate effective techniques for your students
  • show videos of prominent public speakers and have the students discuss the effective strategies used in groups

Scenario # 5

You teach a grade 2/3 split and its gym period and volleyball is the unit you are teaching.

You have a large group of students – a predominance of highly spirited boys who love to dominate the court both physically and verbally.

You are in a large gymnasium with another class running on the adjacent court; naturally there is a lot of speaking and projection required.

What approaches might you use to teach this class while attempting to preserve your voice/prevent vocal strain?

  • have a strong whistle available to get students attention and use signals to have them come over to you for direction.
  • develop some hand signals with the students before they start playing so that they understand you will be using these signals to give them directions while they are playing and will not be using your voice.   The students will use them with their teammates as well.
  • look into the possibility of parent volunteers /retired coaches or gym teachers

Scenario # 6

You are the French teacher in an elementary school, teaching many levels over the course of the week.

With teaching a second language you find you are constantly speaking in order to provide an abundance of new language exposure and to model pronunciation in an exaggerated and repetitive fashion.

You have never experienced voice difficulties in the past but are finding that by the end of the week your voice feels very strained and others have commented that you are beginning to sound like Demi Moore.

How can you continue to effectively teach French to your classes if you need to speak less?

  • use a CD to provide examples of the French language goal you are trying to teach
  • pick a stronger student to demonstrate examples to the rest of the class
  • break students up into groups to practice new French language goals and then have them present the ideas to the rest of the class
  • augment with hand signals to reinforce varied inflection and stress patterns

Scenario # 7

You are a music teacher and currently teach music to the grade 4, 5, and 6 students.  Your voice is hoarse, rough and scratchy by the end of the day.

You know that you shouldn’t be singing – what are some other activities you could do or other strategies you could utilize to use your voice less and not sing with the students?

  • play an instrument when possible to facilitate the tune, rhythm, and beat
  • play a CD
  • written work for a change (Identify notes/matching notes)
  • have student lead the singing
  • lip synching
  • recording your own voice for use across multiple classes
  • Podcasts/you tube
  • hand signals for different pitches