Playing With Bubbles

One of my favorite things about T’s speech therapy sessions is that we learn new ways to interact and play with T, including playing with toys we already have at home. At our very first speech therapy session (when T was only 4 months old!), T’s speech therapist showed us ways to play with T while playing with bubbles.

T’s speech therapist’s eventual goal was to get T to produce “ba” and “pa” sounds. However, when we first started, our initial goal was just to reward T for producing any sounds at all. So, we’d count to 3, and then wait for T to say something (anything!), and reward him by blowing bubbles. To be honest, it took about a month or a month and a half for T (until he was 6ish months old) to be interested in the bubbles – I think he had trouble visually focusing on them at first. After that, he started to really love looking at the bubbles floating around, and especially loved when we caught one on the bubble wand and brought it to him to pop. He soon got the hang of “asking” for bubbles (he’d mostly say “da!” or “ga!”).

After that, we started trying to make the game a little harder for T. First, a little background – one of the things T’s speech therapist has talked to us about is pairing consonants that are similar but different in some context so that T can hear the two consonants together and try to hear the difference. An example of this (that we use in our bubble games) are “ba” and “pa” sounds. “Ba” and “pa” are really similar in that both are bilabial consonants – meaning they are formed with the lips pressed together (if you look in a mirror while making “ba” and “pa” sounds, you’ll notice that they visually look really similar!). However, “ba” and “pa” differ from each other in a parameter called “voice-onset time.” In the case of “ba” and “pa,” voice-onset time refers to the amount of time between when the lips are opened and when vibration of the vocal folds begins. The time is much shorter for “ba” than for “pa,” and you can hear it in how “pa” has sort of a more explosive attack than “ba.”

Anyway, we’ve been trying to get T to hear and produce “ba” and “pa” sounds using bubbles. Now that T is a bit older, we count to 3, and try to wait for him to make a “ba” sound (and if he is reluctant, we’ll say “ba-ba-ba-BUBBLES!”). Then, we’ll show him how to pop the bubbles, while saying “Pa-Pa-Pa-POP!”). T has become somewhat consistent in saying “ba” to get us to blow bubbles, and he is working on the “pa” sound – we’ve heard him say this a few times in the context of popping bubbles, which is exciting!

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