Kids can encounter all kinds of unique challenges when they’re learning to speak and understand what’s being spoken to them. One impediment to typical speech development is tongue thrust, which occurs when the tongue rests at a forward position of the mouth and is thrust against or between the teeth during swallowing and speech. It’s sometimes referred to as “reverse swallow,” “immature swallow” or “open bite.” It’s a type of orofacial myofunctional disorder – and our Akron speech therapy team can help to treat it.
An orofacial myofunctional disorder is one that involves the muscle function of the mouth and face. Correct positioning of the tongue is the tongue pushing or pressing against the gums directly above the back front upper teeth.
Tongue thrust is actually present in almost all young children, but most have automatically switched to a normal swallowing/speech pattern by the time they’re 6-years-old. If they have not (or if you notice earlier than that it appears to be affecting speech articulation issues), it’s time to consult an Akron speech therapy team.
Causes of Tongue Thrust
We don’t always know what causes tongue thrust, but it could be from several factors combined.
Some conditions that may be causal:
- Upper airway constriction. If a child has a tough time or inability to breathe through the nose (sometimes from unresolved or frequent upper respiratory infections), chronic nasal congestions, or a deviated septum, it can cause tongue thrust.
- Prolonged pacifier, bottle, or sippy cup use or long-term thumb sucking. Any of these can contribute to a greater likelihood a child will develop tongue thrust. Other habits that could exacerbate the risk are things like teeth grinding and clenching, chewing nails or cuticles or sucking on one’s cheeks, lips, or tongue.
- Structural abnormalities. In some cases, it could be the result of a physiological issues, such as a low-lying, forward position of the tongue.
- Developmental delay. In some cases, developmental delays and differences associated with conditions like epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy, or down syndrome may contribute to the development of tongue thrust.
Why Tongue Thrust Needs to be Treated With Akron Speech Therapy
The concern with tongue thrust is multi-pronged.
For dentists and orthodontists, the worry is that when there is too much tongue pressure against the teeth from the inside (and an unequal amount of facial pressure on the outside), it can result in the teeth becoming misaligned. Specifically, the front teeth are going to end up being pushed forward. This can necessitate braces and extensive dental work when they get older. Untreated tongue-thrust can also result in long-term issues not only for aesthetics (potentially causing changes to the shape of the face, causing it to become more elongated while the tongue protrudes), but for feeding/swallowing and speech. It can also cause frequently cracked, chapped and sore lips (from constant licking) to frequent mouth breathing – even if your child has no allergies or congestion.
In particular with speech, tongue thrust can cause speech articulation problems. Articulation is the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech. Kids with tongue thrust may have an especially rough time properly pronouncing the following sounds:
Our Akron speech therapy team uses special techniques to help avoid adverse outcomes.
Speech therapists will conduct an evaluation and then assign exercises that help promote a normal swallowing pattern and production of correct speech.
Each exercise is going to be tailored to the child’s exact needs, but they’re going to involve activities that press the tip of the tongue against the gum in the roof of the mouth, right behind the front teeth. An example would be putting a small sugarless candy (or raisin or Cheerio) on the tip of the tongue and having the child touch it to the roof of their mouth – and hold it there while they’re swallowing. Practicing this and other exercises over time can help kids unlearn the tongue thrust habit and start properly swallowing and correctly producing certain sounds.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy and feeding therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Tongue Thrust and Treatment of Subsequent Articulation Disorders, Feb. 24, 2011, ASHA
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Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences, June 14, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Blog
As speech therapy providers, we’re well-acquainted with the fact that “late talkers” can benefit from early intervention. And while there is evidence those who “catch up” continue to be at moderate risk for further speech-language deficits as they get older, research shows those risks even out, ultimately equaling about the same as those who started off with no speech delays at all.
How Do We Define “Late Talker”?
The American Speech Hearing Association refers to “late talking” as “late language emergence.” It is defined as a delay in language onset when there are no other diagnosed disabilities or other developmental cognitive/motor delays.
It’s estimated 10-20 % of 2-year-olds are late talkers, and it’s three times more common in boys than girls.
Toddlers with late language emergence might have only expressive language delays (the ability to express ones’ self to others). Alternatively, they might have mixed expressive & receptive delays (trouble both expressing one’s self and understanding what other people are expressing to them). Kids with expressive language delays have trouble with things like articulation (how to say words correctly) and sentence structure. A child with mixed expressive and receptive would have trouble with oral language production and language comprehension.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has a great Speech and Language Milestones Checklist to help you determine if your child’s speech-language is delayed. Our speech therapy clinic in Brecksville also offers free initial screenings, as well as comprehensive testing, as referred by a physician.
Children who are “late talkers” are going to be at risk for literacy troubles as well, and the condition can later show itself to be closely associated with other disabilities, such as social communication disorder, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disability, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Although some kids with late language emergence later prove to be “late bloomers” (who ultimately catch up to their peers without intervention), the differentiation is really only made after the fact. That’s why we recommend all “late talkers” get early intervention speech therapy.
Early Intervention Speech Therapy Helps Late Talkers Catch Up
Speech therapy has been proven to help children with speech-language delays “catch up” to their peers.
One study published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology revealed that kids who received early intervention speech therapy and caught up to their peers were no more likely than any other child to fall behind in language/literacy later in life.
The longitudinal (over time) analysis looked at nearly 3,600 pairs of twins who participated in an early development study. About 9 percent of the twin sets were language delayed at age 2. Of those, 60 percent had “recovered” or “caught up” by the time they reached four years. Those who “recovered” were matched with another 4-year-old participant who matched their same vocabulary, gender, and other characteristics – but who did not have a history of language delay.
What they found was that kids who appeared to have “recovered” by age 4 were at no higher risk than others for language outcomes as they got older.
Further, when a child’s language difficulties are largely resolved by age 5 or 6, their long-term outlook for language development is much better. We also know that early intervention speech therapy can be critical in helping children with late language emergence to “catch up” in the first place.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
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Does Baby Talk Boost Speech-Language Development? Feb. 1, 2022, Northeast Ohio Speech Therapy Blog
There is no denying our kids are growing up in uniquely digital age. Our patients at Therapy & Wellness Connection often amaze us with how tech-savvy they are! It’s important as speech therapists and parents that we aren’t just giving them free reign, and instead are finding the right kind of apps that will both motivate kids and help them learn and communicate. That’s why we’re offering some tips on how to find the best speech therapy apps for kids.
Screen time is typically thought of as a passive experience. And it’s true that too much screen time can be harmful for developing minds and bodies – especially if it’s the kind of tech that doesn’t engage or teach. By focusing on speech therapy apps specifically, we can use kids’ motivation for digital rewards while also creating a compelling language-learning experience for them.
The No. 1 rule is that no matter what, the adult is the one controlling access to the device. If kid are busy clacking and swiping and clicking, they probably aren’t going to be communicating. If we’re using technology in a speech therapy setting, we always are the ones holding the device while encouraging them to talk to us and tell us what to do. Doing this gives kids the chance to delve into new learning apps while still learning to use their words to engage and play.
Hearing loss can profoundly impact a child’s development of speech, language and social skills. The sooner a child who is hard-of-hearing or deaf begins receiving services, the more likely they are to reach their maximum potential. Speech therapy is one of the key services deaf children need – even if they receive cochlear implants.
September is International Deaf Awareness Month, and it’s important to address some misconceptions that might result in unnecessary long-term challenges for children who are deaf.
Speech-language pathologists at Therapy and Wellness Connection know that when these issues aren’t addressed early on, children may arrive at school behind on their language and reasoning skills. A cochlear implant can dramatically help children with hearing loss – but that isn’t where treatment should stop.