Recently I’ve heard of mothers who are telling other mothers that they’d better be doing oral motor exercises at home with their kids and find SLPs who will do these with their kids to help their toddlers learn to speak more clearly. I wanted to let you all in on apparently what bit games for speech development for toddlers SLPs aren’t telling you.
There’s a whole lot of research in the past few years that tell us that oral motor exercises DON’T work to help children learn to speak more clearly. In his ASHA presentation in November 2006, Dr. Logic, Theory and Evidence Against the Use of Non-Speech Oral Motor Exercises to Change Speech Sound Productions. SLPs tell you to do including blowing, tongue push ups, pucker-smile, tongue wags, big smile, tongue to nose to chin, cheek puffing, blowing kisses, and tongue curling. DOES NOT INVOLVE him making a speech sound is not going to help him learn to talk. This means that all the blowing, sucking, tongue exercises, and lip games you’ve been doing will not do one bit of good when it comes to helping him produce clearer speech. Now I can’t say that I’m an SLP who has over-relied on this kind of stuff.
I’m a talker, and I push functional communication whether it be with signs or words in play practically every minute of the time I provide direct treatment to a child. Johnny will perform 10-15 repetitions of oral motor exercises to improve strength and coordination for intelligible speech. I know lots of SLPs who do and who base their whole treatment plan around these kinds of goals and strategies for non-verbal children and for children who are struggling with speech intelligibility. I’d like to say that I haven’t done lots of oral motor activities in sessions because it didn’t make sense to me clinically. But the truth is, it’s because I hadn’t found a way to make them fun enough to do on a consistent basis or for any length of time.
Because of this, it never really felt right or worth pursuing for me, or especially for a kid. 2 or 3 year old to do these kinds of things for more than a minute or two? You might have an initial novel period where they sit with you and try to do it, but unless you make it super fun and whacky, I’ve found it wasn’t successful for very long. It’s usually pretty hard for them to do, and again, it’s usually pretty boring.
I have even recommended these kinds of things for kids without low muscle tone or who don’t have sensory issues that are negatively affecting feeding. Because it’s somehow ingrained in how we’ve been trained as SLPs. As a matter of fact, Dr. SLPs in America who were surveyed said they use non-speech oral motor exercises to change speech sound production.