I have been fortunate enough to have access to a full set of Speech Buddies , and have had (and watched others have) great success with these little tools! Speech Buddies are intended to help artic. kiddos get a consistent, tactile plan for producing any of 5 tough sounds (“s,” “r,” “sh,” “ch,” and “l”). They are NOT (I repeat, NOT) oral motor tools created for the purpose of strengthening the tongue. Rather, they provide kids with an easy way to access that “sweet spot” for making a strong, clear, accurate /r/, /l/, etc. The basic rundown of a Speech Buddy is as follows: the clinician holds one end of the Buddy outside the client’s mouth, while a small part goes a little wase in beyond the teeth (depends on the sound being targeted). The part in the client’s mouth give them a clear target for where and how their tongue should move for correct sound production!
I’ll give you a personal example from therapy with an “/r/ client.” According to baseline and final probe data, this little guy had done relatively well with a previous clinician getting his pre-vocalic /r/ correct and had made some gains with his post-vocalic /r/. Expecting to simply need to work on self-monitoring and conversation-level post-vocalic /r/ productions, I was surprised upon meeting him to find that his accuracy was a mess on those post-vocalic /r/ sounds. Moreover, he was frustrated, unmotivated, and lacked confidence in his ability to consistently get a good “er” (or any other vowel context) out. I asked him why he thought it was hard to make a new, strong /r/ sound, and he responded that he frankly had no clue where exactly his tongue was supposed to go-he’d been taught the steps to a retroflex /r/, but never really got it.
I pulled out the r-Buddy, did some basic explanations about what I wanted him to do with his tongue once it was correctly placed in his mouth, and we did some syllable-level practice to get his tongue into a pattern of “unrolling” the buddy in order to make a great retroflex /r/. The results were immediate and pretty darn amazing. After doing 15 repetitions of the sound with the Speech Buddy in, I took it out and asked him to start with his vowel sound, and arc his tongue back just as if the Speech Buddy were still in place. TA-DA (insert magical music and dancing unicorns here)…the post-vocalic /r/ was right on target (AND he knew exactly how and where his tongue should move). Progress has been rapid since then; we occasionally pull the Speech Buddy out when he makes 2+ consistent old /r/ productions, but simply getting that motor plan down was HUGE for this kiddo!
Check out the Speech Buddy website for more info on these cool articulation tools: https://www.speechbuddy.com/. I am in no way affiliated with the Speech Buddies company…just satisfied with the results!