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Oral Motor Exercises -- do these to get your children's oral muscles in shape for speech and better function.

As I stated in an earlier post, oral motor exercises are not the same thing as speech therapy or articulation. They are exercises designed to help the child gain control of the function of all the muscle in the oral cavity. Jessica is apraxic, which means that the muscles and structures of her oral cavity are not under voluntary control. They could do articulation with her till the cows come home and we would never see improvement, because she can't make her mouth do what it needs to do to make the sounds she needs to make.

The following are some exercises that anyone can do at home with your kids. It can't hurt them to do them, and if you make a game of it, you can have fun with your child at the same time that you are helping him or her gain the control they need in order to articulate.

1. Blowing is always good. Blow bubbles from a wand. Blow a cotton ball off your hand.. blow a ping pong ball across a table with a straw.. .hold a kleenex in front of your mouth and blow it into the air... those are all great exercises. You can also do the blowing while making a strong /p/ sound, or /b/ sound.. that also strengthens lip pursing at the same time.

2. Make faces in a mirror.... lips puckered, lips stretched into a smile, lips open wide, lips showing teeth etc ... you make the face, and then your child copies it.

3. Peanut butter... put peanut butter on the lips and have the child lick it off, put peanut butter in the bowl of a spoon and hold it in front of the mouth and the child licks it from the spoon, put a dab on the palate and the child sucks it off.

4. Use a tongue depressor. Have the child hold the tongue depressor crosswise between the lips, using ONLY the lips, and count to ten. Have your child push his tongue against the tongue depressor held in front of the lips. Use a tongue depressor as a model and show your child how to put it on the tongue... put it over the lips and touch it with the tongue, under the mouth and touch it with the tongue, to the right, to the left ... always meeting it with the tongue.

4. Suckers make great tongue targets. Hold a sucker to the right side of the mouth and have your child touch it with the tongue.. then move it to the left and do the same thing (that left-to-right-and-back-again movement of the tongue is an especially tricky one!)

5. Whistles of varying sizes and shapes help with lip formation. Have them blow five to ten blasts at a time, then move to a different shaped whistle or horn. Even a harmonica can be used in this activity. Be sure that only the lips go over the end of the whistle or horn.

6. Straws of various sizes, sipping liquids of varying thickness helps the muscles from lips to velum, as well as the tongue. Eventually, you want to work up to a crazy straw and a pudding, but start with a regular straw and water (or something tastier).

The important thing here is that the child NOT use teeth to hold the straw.. ONLY the lips. Notice that none of the emphasis here is on sound production at all.. its all about helping the brain to learn how to control a certain group of muscles, and in strengthening those muscles. You can do these things at home, but be sure you do them WITH your child... don't just hand him a whistle and tell him to blow it. It has to he held between the lips ONLY (not stabilized with the teeth) and blown in quick, short  blasts. Don't just give him a drink with a straw and tell him to have at it, he must hold the straw at the very tip with only the lips -- no teeth!

Jessica likes these games. Introducing these games to her really made a huge difference in terms of her oral control. She remains apraxic, but the improvement and evidence of more control is amazing!



Mom to Jacob (UCLP), Joey (BCLP) and Jessica (BCLP)

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