Ultrasound Unlocks Articulation Roadblock

In this article published in the March 2018 Outcomes Magazine by the Harding University Center for Health Sciences, a speech-language pathologist shares a patient’s breakthrough after ultrasound is used to map articulation.

Lucie’s speech was atypical. In fact, it was like nothing that I had encountered in almost 20 years of practice as a pediatric speech-language pathologist.

Lucie had been in speech therapy since she was 3 years old, and although she had made improvements, some of her speech patterns had been resistant to traditional intervention strategies. Even when the articulation was correct, Lucie’s speech sometimes still didn’t sound right; her speech was resonating too far toward the back of her mouth. I started therapy with Lucie at the Harding University Speech Clinic during fall 2016. Lucie’s graduate clinician, Lindsey, used strategies that relied on Lucie being able to feel her tongue in a different place or hear a difference in her speech productions.
Our strategies were helping, but slowly.

Then The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association provided the answer, and Dr. Mike Murphy provided the tool.

In November, I attended a short course at the annual convention for ASHA. The course offered hands-on training in the use of ultrasound to assess and treat speech disorders. An ultrasound image could provide visual biofeedback so that Lucie could see where her tongue was while she was making a sound. She could see and feel and hear all at the same time. Murphy agreed to let us use a portable ultrasound device from the physician assistant program, so Lucie, Lindsey and I got to work again.

We tried the ultrasound combined with Lindsey’s cues and reminders from the previous semester. With the biofeedback, Lucie was able to produce the more forward oral resonance much more consistently. After the first session with the ultrasound, Lindsey and I noticed dramatic improvements in the clarity of Lucie’s speech. Ultrasound can’t fix every speech disorder, but for some this can be the solution.