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Special Education Articles: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Articles: Does Your Child Say Be Instead of Me

Does Your Child Say Be Instead of Me?

Author: Sally Lonner
August 1997

The (m) sound, which is almost a natural for hearing babies, often has a (b) substitution in the initial position in deaf speech. You hear bom instead of mom. When trying to show the lips together position you often exaggerate the tension in your lips. (Try it in front of a mirror- say mmmm and see how tense and hard your lips are.) This tension is what a deaf child sees, and tries to copy, because he is so visually attuned.The resulting sound is a (b).

Model an (m) with very soft lips, an at rest position. Try to feel the vibration, not only on the nose, but on the lips. It may be necessary to almost pucker your lips to feel the vibration on them, in order to give a tactual clue how, and where, the (m) is produced.

The next step, is combining the (m) with a vowel. This is where the (b) substitution begins. If you ask for ma and you get ba, try again, with new instructions. These instructions are: say (m) then open your lips. Usually the lips will remain relaxed and soft , and the vowel just happens. When this is mastered, go on to the next Ling step 1 vowels which are: oo e ou I.

Now try the (m) in words. Mom, me, my, mouth, milk more, moo, are a few good ones for a start. Look around for little objects and toys beginning with (m) to collect in a shoe box or a coffee can e.g., a rubber mouse, a toy motorcycle, a magnet, money in a baggie, a marble, empty milk carton, a mug etc. A book of (m) words can also be made, cutting (m) pictures out of magazines and pasting them in a note book, or on 5 x 8 cards put on a ring.

Next model some (m) words combined with other words, in actual communication. Example: for me as you hold out a Cheerio or cracker; more please, giving one M? at a time so the phrase will have to be repeated; move please, when you sit in the child's place or chair.)

All of these activities should be approached as if they are games, not a speech lesson, or in ongoing conversations throughout the day. You may need to use the reminder "remember your soft (m)". Reinforce good productions with "that was a good soft (m)" so that you are reminding them that it is necessary to make an (m) with soft lips. When you are working on (m), your expectations should be only for that sound plus correct vowels. For an older child, tell him you will work on the other sounds later and to think only about the (m) now.

When (m) is at the end of the word there are usually no problems with (b) substitutions because there are no vowels following it.

Another pattern in deaf speech is the omission of final consonants. The (m) sound is an easy place to begin the awareness of final consonants. Easy high frequency words to use are: home, come, am, some, welcome, bathroom. Remember, your expectations should be on the final (m) and preceding vowel. When using a two- syllable word such as bathroom, concentrate on the rhythm of the two syllables, the vowels, and the (m) sound (a oom). If you are able to get a (b) too that's a bonus.

It is most important to remember that your child needs a correct visual model for (m), with lips at rest and free of tension, to learn how it should feel on his own mouth.


Sally Lonner received her Bachelors Degree from the University of Washington. She holds the following credentials: State of California Restricted Special Education Life Credential for K-12 Speech and Hearing Therapy and the California Community College Instructor Credential in Special Education. She has worked as a speech and language specialist in a total communication program for deaf and hard of hearing students for the last 22 years. Her students ranged from 18 months to 12 years of age. She has also worked at the John Tracy clinic in their deaf blind program and at a school for the physically handicapped. For the last 12 years she has taught sign language at a local community college. Sally has attended numerous workshops related to working with the deaf and hard of hearing, including a language workshop with Daniel Ling. She has also presented at the CALED (California Educators of the Deaf) conference.

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