Gliding & Speech Therapy

Children may demonstrate the phonological process of gliding as speech develops, but by 5 years of age, gliding should disappear. 

For many children with speech disorders, gliding persists past 5.

Keep reading for my gliding overview and therapy tips.

Gliding Definition

Before we get started, let's review gliding so we are all on the same page.

Gliding is when a liquid (/l/ and /r/) is replaced with a glide (/w/ and "y").

To be able to treat gliding, let's review differences between glides & liquids.

Liquids (/r/ and /l/):

  • Sonorant sound: sound is not stopped or partially stopped
  • Tongue position: is necessary for sound production,
  • /r/ Front Airflow: air escapes over front of tongue
  • /l/ later airflow: air escapes over sides of tongue

Glides (/w/ and "y"): 

  • Sonorant soundsound is not stopped or partially stopped
  • Semivowel: almost a vowel but starts a syllable instead of being in the middle of it

When To Treat Gliding

Treatment will depend on the child and their specific needs.

Typically, if a child is gliding, I start treatment around 5 years of age. 

Gliding & Speech Therapy Materials

Below are therapy techniques I use when working on gliding.

Minimal Pairs

Minimal pairs are two words that differ by one one phoneme.  This treatment technique is almost always necessary when treating gliding.

I use minimal pairs to:
  • Target Sound Perception - Can the child hear the difference between the two sounds?
  • Sound Production/Awareness - The child says the correct sound and error sound at the same time to hear and feel the difference between the two. 
Minimal Pairs For Gliding Include
  • R VS W - "run and "one"
  • L VS W - "lake" and "wake"
  • L VS Y - "lamb" and "yam"
How To Use Minimal Pairs

Level 1 - Receptive: Listen to the SLP/caregiver say the minimal pairs and identify which sound is being produced by pointing or saying the sound.

Level 2 - One Word At A Time: Produce each word/minimal pair sequentially, one word at a time.

Level 3 - Both Words In Together: Say each word/minimal pair together, one right after the other without a break.

Level 4 - ONE WORD: Say ONE WORD that contains BOTH sounds.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness plays a key role in articulation and phonology treatment, especially for gliding.

Phonological awareness therapy ideas for gliding includes:

Level 1 - Matching. Say a sound and then show the child 3 pictures. The child has to identify which picture contains the sound


Level 2 - Identification. Say a word and have the child identify the initial and/or final sound for both the liquids and glides

Level 3 - Missing sounds. The child has to fill in the missing sounds for both the liquids and glides.

Phrase/Sentence Level Practice

Once the child starts to make progress, we need to move to phrase/sentence level. 

To target this for gliding, I like to have the child create ONE sentence that has both their error and target sound. 

This is quite challenging but a necessary step before the goal is met. I like to target this in a concrete way before moving to play based activities. This seems to create the most success.


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