Some kids tend to develop extreme sensitivity towards their mouth part that include the lips, tongues and the jaws. They feel that the use of the mouth is an unpleasant and uncomfortable task. Hence, they try to avoid any form of muscle movements of the face and the mouth. As a result, these muscles become weak and hamper their speech production. So they cannot speak fluently or are unable to pronounce long words, syllables and phrases. They also refuse to repeat the same words again and again. To counteract these feelings, oral motor therapy has been found to be highly beneficial.
Oral Motor Exercises
Oral motor exercises is a form of speech therapy that can bring about significant improvement in the oral motor skills of the children. They help in stabilization of the jaws, dissociation of the tongue from the jaw, pursing of lips, etc. Some simple activities involving the lips, the tongue and jaws are as follows:
Lip Exercises: Blowing bubbles is good for exercising the lip muscles. It may involve blowing cotton balls, horns, toy "windmills" or harmonica. You can give them thickened drinks like milkshake to suck through the straws. This helps in strengthening of the lip muscles as they make the lips round in order to blow air. It is also helpful in breath control which is essential for producing the right sound.
Tongue Exercises: Practice of licking is an excellent exercise involving the tongue. It improves the tongue movements in various directions. First, you can place some peanut butter or marshmallow on the roof of the mouth and ask them to lick it with the tongue without using the fingers. Similarly, put it on one side of the inner cheek and let them lick it with tongue by moving it sideways.
Jaw Exercises: First of all, ask the child to open the mouth and then hold the lower jaw with your hand. Now, tell him or her to try to close the mouth. Thus they will put pressure on the jaw muscles. It can be done in reverse order as well. Hold the chin when the mouth is closed and then ask to open the mouth. This way children learn to use the jaw muscles.
Oral Motor Therapy Ideas
Small children tend to get nervous while undergoing speech therapy. In that case, games and toys can serve as effective therapy tools. Thus it will be fun and enjoyable for them at the same time improve their skills. You can use some simple easily available toys and games for this purpose. A simple toy like Mr. Potato Head can be used for it. While the child is putting each feature to the head, ask him or her to name those features. Tongue twisters can be used for practicing oral motor therapy. Initially, ask them to focus on pronouncing each of the words of the tongue twister properly. Once they are comfortable with the word, let them speed up the sentence. Construction toy games, board games that consist of pictures of 'therapy words', car races, puzzles, hide and seek are some of the other games that kids love to play and have therapeutic value too.
Thus oral speech therapy can make the speech sounds better but will also help them to deal with problems like eating, feeding, swallowing in a much better manner. All the exercises and activities that have been discussed here are for children whose age is 3 years and above.