When I start working with a child who has severe apraxia or severe speech delays, I often target /p/, /b/, and /m/ first because they are highly visual sounds. It’s easy for young children to see how I am making the sound. Here are just a few tips for producing bilabials:

1) If a child cannot imitate bilabial sounds in isolation, I like to use a popsicle stick or tongue depressor to help teach them how to make the sounds. I put something like pudding, peanut butter, or marshmallow fluff on the top and bottom of the popsicle stick (just a small amount in the middle of the stick). Then I have the child close their lips on the popsicle stick. If we are working on /m/, I have the child close their lips and hum. If we are working on /p/ or /b/, I have the child pop their lips open and shut on the stick.

2) Talk about how each sound is made- I call /m/ a humming sound and /p,b/ lip popping sounds. I like to use the hand signals from the Easy Does It for Apraxia program.

3) Use puppets- Bilabial sounds are perfect for using puppets because you can open and close the puppet’s mouth to approximate how the child should make the sounds. I like to get pictures of foods to give the puppet. Then we close the puppet’s mouth on a piece of food and say “mmmmmm.” I think it helps that the child can hold the puppet’s mouth tightly shut as they try to say /m/.

4) Hum with music- I like to give my students a microphone and encourage them to try to hum along with music.

5) Using lip gloss- You can get brightly colored lip gloss and put it on the child’s lips. Then have her close her lips on a tissue or piece of paper so that you can see the print of her lips. Encourage her to vocalize while pressing her lips to the paper to work on /m/.

6) Play in front of a mirror- Sit with the child and look in a mirror. Make some funny faces together to help get the child interested and feeling comfortable. You can have the child imitate your funny faces and then let the child make a funny face for you to imitate. After the child will try to imitate your funny faces, have him/her try to imitate bilabial sounds. Make sure you direct the child’s attention to your lips. I think it helps to teach the child vocabulary like “lips,” “tongue,” and “teeth.” See if the child can identify parts of his/her mouth.

I hope those ideas are useful for you!

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