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
More Blog Entries:
Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists Teach Kids How to Make Inferences, June 14, 2022, Akron Speech Therapy Blog
May is Better Speech & Hearing Month, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports 1 in 12 kids age 3-17 in the U.S. has a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing. Our Cleveland speech therapists recognize that speech problems (difficulty being understood by others) are the most common among kids ages 3-10. Language problems (difficulty understanding others) ranked No. 2. More than one-third of kids with communication disorders has more than one.
As Cleveland speech therapists, we have decades of combined experience in engaging with children with speech-language disorders and delays, and helping to encourage their development on these fronts. But we also recognize that speech therapy is only part of the puzzle! The more consistent practice and carryover a child has across environments, the better these new skills are going to “stick,” and the faster kids will reach their speech therapy goals!
So what’s the best way to practice these skills with your kids? Play!
“Your child’s most important job is to play. It’s through play that young kids learn and grow. So playing with your child is really the best way to help them sharpen those speech & language skills.”
Jaclyn McClymont, speech-language pathologist, owner and founder of Therapy & Wellness Connection.
Any play that engages your child is generally going to be good for encouraging speech and language (as well as positive mental health and interpersonal connection). That said, there may be some activities/games that are more beneficial than others.
Here, our Cleveland speech therapists offer a few of our simple favorites!
Pretend Talk on the Phone
Pretending to talk on the phone is great for teaching kids important words, family member names, and social skills like turn-taking. If they’re very young, you can work on the basics, “Hi!” “Ok!” “Yes.” “No.” “Momma.” “Grama.” “Bye!” Modeling speech & language doesn’t need to be super complicated for it to be effective. The key is to keep it fun!
“Who’s on the phone? Is it Daddy? No, Ok. Is it Momma?”
“Did you tell Momma hi? Hi, Momma! Ok, bye!”
Sing Songs in Motion
The list here is endless, but to name a few:
- Wheels on the Bus
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Old Macdonald
- Five Little Ducks
- Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
- Baby Shark (if it doesn’t drive you crazy!)
- Hokey Pokey
Often, kids will copy the motions first. Eventually, they’ll wade in with a few of the words. Before you know it, they’ll have it all down to a T!
YouTube has some engaging videos to go along with these, and the extra visual may help too.
Look Through/Read Books
You don’t have to read a 40-page book. Most kids won’t sit through that anyway. But start with picture books. Think small – 3-5 pages. And you don’t necessarily have to “read” them all either. Look through the pictures. Point to various objects or people in the story. Label them. Talk about what might be happening.
It will take time, but eventually you’ll be able to get through the whole book. Then you can start reading it. Rhyming or sing-songy books are often best for memorization.
Kids love balls. They’re great not only for gross motor skills, but also for development of joint attention, turn-taking, and other key social skills.
You can work on words like roll, throw, bounce, catch, down, up, around, over, your turn, my turn, etc.
If you’re trying to encourage requesting, wait a few beats after you’ve gotten the ball for them to motion or ask for it returned.
“You want the ball? Say, ‘Ball!” or “Ball please!”
Narrate everything you’re doing.
“The ball went over the chair!”
Once they master some of the basics, you can start adding other adjectives.
“You’re playing with the big, blue ball!”
Play With Bubbles
Bubbles are so easy and simple, they’re sometimes overlooked – but they can be a source of ENDLESS fun and enjoyment for kids.
Help your child work on requesting the bubbles, model for them “more bubbles” and say words like, “up, down, pop, jump, catch, circle, over, under,” etc.
Bubbles are great at bath time year-round, but spring & summer are perfect for taking it outside, and giving them a chance to get some fresh air & soak up some Vitamin D!
Play With Pretend Food
Kids are crazy about pretend food. They love to play as if they are planning, preparing, and eating it. It’s been our Cleveland speech therapists’ experience that even when kids don’t have utensils or plates or cups or play-food, they’ll get imaginative and make do with what they have. So if you have pretend food – cool. If you don’t – no sweat. Kids’ imaginations are a wonder. You can use a block, a box, or even empty boxes or cans, cartons, etc.
You can model pouring food, cooking food, drinking, and eating. You can model words like, “Yummy! Great job! Hot! Cold! Yucky! cup, plate, fork, all done, mine, yours, good,” etc. You can also label different food items, and even put them into categories. “Apple is a fruit.” “Chicken is meat.”
Cleveland Speech Therapists Encourage Parent Involvement!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you play – but that you’re engaged. The best thing parents can do for their kids day in and out is talk to them. Narrate what you’re doing. Narrate what others are doing. Talk about colors, shapes, animals, weather, foods, people, cars – anything that captures their interest and imagination.
If you have questions about how you can engage your child during playtime, our speech therapy team can help!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron 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.
The Importance of Play: How Kids Learn by Having Fun, Sept. 28, 2020, Healthline.com
More Blog Entries:
Why Our Cleveland Speech Therapists LOVE Repetitive Picture Books for Kids, March 19, 2022, Cleveland Pediatric Speech Therapy Blog
Helping small children learn to communicate is something parents innately start virtually from the moment a child is born. But our Brecksville speech therapy team knows that fostering strong speech and language skills sometimes requires acting with a bit more purpose. Even if you have zero concerns about your child’s ability to communicate, there’s no harm in thoughtfully working to boost your child’s social skills and vocabulary.
As speech-language pathologists who work with young children in the process of acquiring and developing language, we have accumulated many effective techniques that help kids not only in learning to talk, but mastering broader language and communication skills. Here, we’re sharing some of the basics you can use with your child at home, in the community, and during everyday interactions. This is useful for kids with typically-developing speech and language, as well as those for whom such skills are a bit more challenging.
Talking isn’t the only communication skill on the table. In fact, it isn’t even the first. Babies communicate by crying. As they get older, they make eye contact, use body language, and point. Words eventually become the easiest way to convey specific wants, needs, and dislikes, but that comes later. As parents and caregivers, when we recognize, encourage, and positively reinforce those language precursors, we promote healthy speech-language production.
Interesting and of note: Language development and play are very closely related. Kids first start saying their first words around 12 to 13 months, and it’s not a coincidence that this is around the same time that symbolic play begins to emerge. (Symbolic play would be something like holding up a piece of fruit and pretending it’s a phone.) When you participate in that symbolic play, you’re encouraging her language development and helping to expand his/her capacity to represent things both mentally and symbolically.
Create Communication Opportunities
There are many ways parents can create opportunities to encourage their little ones to practice key communication skills. Some of those include:
- Putting desired objects slightly out-of-reach. Instead of simply handing your child the milk you know they want, place it just out of reach of their high chair. Wait for them to ask for it, or at least signal their desire (point, make eye contact, etc.). Reinforce their communication by saying back to them, “You want the milk? Ok, momma will give you the milk.” Same thing for much-loved toys: Put them just a bit higher up (but not so high they can’t be seen.)
- Pretend to be forgetful. Kids LOVE this game. You have lots of routines your child has probably already gotten used to – morning, afternoons, dinner time and bedtime. Let’s say you’re preparing her breakfast. “Forget” to pour the milk. She’s going to “catch” you being forgetful/changing the routine/what’s expected. This is a great way to initiate conversations with young kids.
- Pause during predictable activities. Same concept as “forgetting,” but you’re waiting for them to fill in the blanks. You can start with a favorite song your child loves. “Mary had a little -” and then wait to see if she fills in the blank. That prompts her not only to use her vocabulary, but also practice the back-and-forth turn-taking of language.
Other Helpful Strategies from our Brecksville Speech Therapy Team
Speech and language are skills every child develops at their own pace, but the goal should always be to help them master the next level – while also boosting their self-confidence and keeping it fun!
Other techniques our Brecksville speech-language pathologists use:
- Imitation. If the child is babbling or making nonsense noise, make another playful sound in response. Imitating a child’s sounds and actions – and later words – shows them that they have the ability to be heard! It also helps them begin to grasp the turn-taking element of language. Eventually, they’ll work their way to more complex communication skills.
- Interpretation. If a child points to a toy, they are communicating that they want it. Our speech therapists take this to the next level by interpreting their non-verbal communication with a response like, “Truck! You want the truck.”
- Expansion & recasting. If the child says, “white ball,” we respond by saying, “Yes, that’s a big, white ball.” If a child says, “monkey jump off bed,” we recast that grammar by responding with, “The monkey did jump off the bed.” We’re using intonation and stress to underscore the words on which we want the child to focus.
- Comment and description. Rather than direct your child during playtime, play a newscaster. Give them the play-by-play. “You’re moving the yellow truck around the track.” “You’re putting the brown horse in the barn.” “You’re throwing me the ball!” This not only helps boost a child’s vocabulary, it’s going to help them organize those thoughts while they’re playing.
- Contingent responses. This is important, but it’s often one of the toughest. It involves responding right away to any and all attempts at communication. That includes not just words, but gestures or other efforts to get your attention. Kids need to know that not only is communication in general important, but so specifically is their voice.
- Labeling. You can do this with infants who aren’t talking yet as well as small children – label everything around them. Everything from the rain in the sky to the fruit on their plate to the dog you pass on the street. Label everything.
- Labeling your praise. Rather than just saying, “Nice work,” get specific. “Nice work picking up your blue bunny and red ball,” or “Great job saying more milk please.” Not only does this boost language, it encourages expected behaviors and manners.
If you have any concerns about your child’s speech-language development, our Northeast Ohio pediatric SLP team can help!
Social communication is the way we use language in social contexts, encompassing social interaction, social cognition, pragmatics and language processing. Our Brecksville speech therapists recognize that while many of us take the “rules” of these exchanges for granted, they can be tough for children with developmental delays, disabilities, and other challenges.
Most language is social. Social communication skills include the ability to:
- Vary one’s speech style.
- Recognize the perspective of others.
- Understand – and appropriately use – rules for verbal/non-verbal communication.
- Use the structural elements of language.
There is a fairly broad range of norms accepted across cultures, families and between individuals for social communication, but these skills are critical for effective back-and-forth conversations in a social situation. When a child struggles with verbal and non-verbal communication for social purposes, this may be diagnosed as social communication disorder.
If you’re considering having your child evaluated for Akron speech therapy, it’s likely you’ve noted a speech delay or your child has been diagnosed with a condition associated with speech delay or disorder. You may have done a fair amount of research on your own already, but there are a few key things to keep in mind as you approach your first evaluation and/or speech therapy session.
No. 1 It’s a good idea to discuss expectations with your child’s speech therapist.
Speech therapy is pretty amazing (in our opinion) in terms of what it can help children with delays and disabilities overcome and accomplish. That said, it is not a Band-Aid or a quick fix. You should talk with your child’s speech therapist about what exactly you can expect in each session and how you can be reinforcing the lessons at home. Discuss the goals of your child’s plan-of-care and the reasonable timeline that is set for meeting those goals.
Recognize too that every child is different; what takes one child a few months to master may take another a year or longer to grasp. Some require varying approaches. We’ll just keep working on it day after day, week after week, and month after month until we’re there.
Lots of our sessions will look a lot like we’re just playing, but in fact, we’re incorporating well-established speech-language strategies into each interaction as we help the child meet their goals. As noted by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), play-based therapy is one of the most effective ways to capture a child’s attention and make memories that are going to “stick” beyond our sessions. When a child has fun – they remember it! This helps them learn and retain the skills we’re trying to teach.
No. 2 We want you to be involved!
Effective Akron speech therapy is something that will require consistency over the course of treatment. That means not only ensuring you attend all scheduled appointments, but that we have yours and your child’s active participation in the process. In order for Akron speech therapy to be effective, we need parents to practice the principals we’re working on at home.
Repetition, consistency, and positive reinforcement make a big difference in the rate at which your child achieves his or her goals and to what extent. Research has shown time and again that parent involvement in speech therapy goals helps with improved carryover of the skills we’re teaching. Talk to your speech therapists to see if they have hand-outs or suggestions on activities or other ways to incorporate speech practice into your everyday routine.
No. 3 Your health insurance may cover your child’s speech therapy.
Insurance coverage for pediatric speech therapy in Akron will depend on what kind of insurance you have, your child’s condition (if one has been diagnosed), and what your child’s therapy goals are. You may consult with your insurer to see what they cover, but we can also submit claims for pre-authorization to determine if your child’s treatment will be covered. It may be that only some of the sessions are covered. At Therapy & Wellness Connection, we do also offer competitive self-pay options for situations when speech therapy is not covered by your insurer. If it’s expected your child is going to need extensive treatment, we can also help direct you to other plans or carriers with which you might have better luck.
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.
RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT: Facilitating parental involvement in children’s speech therapy, Crane Center for Early Childhood Development and Policy, The Ohio State University
More Blog Entries:
Signs Your Child Should See a Speech Therapist in Brecksville, Aug. 12, 2021, Akron Speech Therapy Blog
When it comes to speech therapy, our team carefully maps out a plan of care that is specific to each individual. Kids with multiple disabilities are going to need extra consideration and planning. Many of our patients not only struggle to communicate, but they also have:
- Visual impairments.
- Hearing impairments.
- Intellectual impairments.
- Mobility impairments.
Speech therapy alone can put a lot of goals on a child’s plate. But many of these kids are also recommended for/receive all or some combination of occupational therapy, ABA therapy and physical therapy.
Working With a Collaborative Team
One of the ways Therapy & Wellness Connection is unique in the Northeast Ohio region is that we offer all of these services in one location – and we also offer in-home care, educational services, therapy groups and camps. We understand that parents of children with multiple disabilities are dealing with enough each day as it is. They want the best care for their child, but they are also just trying to get by with day-to-day life. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible on them, while also providing top quality services. The benefit of having a multi-disciplinary team is that we’re all on the same page, working together, collaborating – so parents and caregivers aren’t having to explain the same thing to five different therapists in multiple disciplines.
Our ability to collaborate and get on the same page as providers can influence how successful we are in our strategies for working with children who have numerous disabilities. Because a child isn’t just a mouth or ears or eyes. It is a whole person. We recognize that – and work to address challenges from a holistic perspective.
Modifying Akron Speech Therapy to Meet the Child’s Needs
Our speech therapy team is always looking at ways we can be the most effective. That means we’re never going to use the exact same approach for two different children. (We don’t even always use the same approach for the same child, particularly as they make progress!)
We look carefully at each patient’s level of communication as well as their comorbidities. When we’re preparing our speech therapy sessions, we look at ways we can modify our approach so that we can keep it fun and engaging, but also allow them to actively participate and reach their target goals – even if that is inch-by-inch.
- For a child with visual impairments, we would incorporate lots of tactile and auditory input as well as possibly sign language.
- For a child with auditory impairments, we would incorporate large visual aids and clear signs.
- For a child with behavioral challenges, we set clear rules and expectations and collaborate with their behavior therapist on the strategies they are using so we can stay consistent across the board.
One thing that doesn’t change is that our efforts are always based on what is going to create the best outcomes for the child.
We invite parents and caregivers of children with multiple disabilities to call us, meet with us, tour our facilities and talk with other parents of patients about their challenges and successes and why they have chosen us to help their child communicate and thrive.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Multiple Disabilities, April 19, 2019, Center for Parent Information and Resources
More Blog Entries:
Top Five Speech Teletherapy Myths, Jan. 10, 2021, Akron 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.
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – a fact that sometimes has people asking, “Who ISN’T aware of Down syndrome?”
It’s true that Down syndrome is far and away the most common condition involving chromosomes. It occurs in about 1 in every 691 births, with more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the U.S. today, according to the CDC, and many of us are at least somewhat familiar with it and have probably met at least one person who has it.
The month of awareness started in the 1980s by the National Down Syndrome Society. The express goal was to spread awareness as well as greater understanding about Down syndrome and to promote advocacy and foster inclusion throughout the community.
Speech disorders are fairly common with children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. One study published by Swedish researchers indicated more than half of all kids cerebral palsy have some type of speech problem. Speech therapy can be integral in helping them to effectively communicate and function.
Lots of kids with cerebral palsy have trouble with control over the muscles in their head, neck, throat and face. This can lead to difficulty not only with speech, but also chewing, swallowing and drooling. They can be difficult to understand, which in turn can impact their ability to connect and learn.
Our Brecksville speech therapy team helps children with cerebral palsy improve the control of muscles needed for speech, language, swallowing and interacting.
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.