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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Kids will soon be back in school, and that means homework, class projects and tests. As the school year gains momentum, some parents may begin to notice their child is lagging a bit behind developmentally in terms of their speech, language comprehension, and overall communication. As a speech therapist in Brecksville can explain, every child develops at a different pace. That said, you don’t want to wait too long to address a speech-language delay or problem. Early intervention can help your child catch up to where they need to be, so they don’t lose too much ground academically.
Many kids who receive our speech therapy services start before they are school-age. That’s because their speech-language delays were evident before they turned 4 or 5. However, sometimes there are issues that don’t become evident until a child becomes a bit older.
Some examples of struggles with which a speech therapist may be able to help:
- Stuttering. This occurs when speech flow is interrupted by unintended repetitions, pauses, words or phrases. Speech therapy helps your child learn to limit speech interruptions and boost their confidence. A pediatric speech therapist can also help your child learn to control patterns of speech by monitoring their speech rate and breath support.
- Dyslexia/delayed phonological awareness. Phonological awareness refers to a broad set of skills kids typically develop in preschool as they are being prepared to learn how to read and write. It’s the ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words, and it’s one of the most accurate predictors of how well a child will learn to read in their first few years of school. Kids at risk of reading difficulty struggle with phonological awareness, but there are a number of ways a speech therapist can help. A child who struggles with phonological awareness might have dyslexia. This is when a child struggles with reversing words and letters, decoding, and spelling. The problem is often the phonological language component. An experienced pediatric speech therapist can help identify the issue and also help treat it
- Reading comprehension problems. Reading comprehension refers to one’s ability to successfully process words, understand their meaning, and integrate them with existing knowledge. Speech therapy can help your child improve their ability to comprehend what they are grappling with things like understanding the meaning of words, connecting ideas in a passage, glossing over or omitting details or difficulty concentrating while reading. A speech therapist can work with your child to help them improve these skills. Not only do we want to help them with reading comprehension (an important life skill), we want to see them actually like reading!
- Inaccurate use of vocabulary. Let’s face it: English is a confusing language. But some kids have a harder time grasping it than others. For instance, if a kid uses the words “on” and “in” interchangeably or in place of the word, “under,” they might be struggling with accurate vocabulary. As longtime pediatric speech therapists in Brecksville, we work with them to help them understand the correct way to use these words and improve their confidence/reading abilities.
- Difficulty with reading fluency. As a Brecksville speech therapist can explain, fluency refers to one’s ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression. If you or your child’s teacher notices he/she needs more time to complete reading assignments than other kids or that they read each word by itself instead of grouping them together to form phrases with meaning (past the age when they should be more fluent in their reading), speech therapy could be an excellent resource.
Even if you don’t have major concerns, the start of the school year is a good time to revisit the American Speech Hearing Association’s speech-language development chart to make sure your child is on-pace for their age group.
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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For parents, one of the greatest thrills is hearing your child say, “mama” or “dada” for the first time. It can be even more exciting to start communicating with your child, especially when they begin speaking with that adorable “baby talk.” But… What if they aren’t talking? Or what if they aren’t saying the words right? What if they don’t appear to understand what you’re saying? How do you know you should begin exploring speech therapy?
The first thing our Brecksville speech therapy team explains to concerned parents is that every child develops at a different pace. There are certain verbal development milestones that pediatricians outline by age, but it’s not cause for panic if your child doesn’t hit it on the mark. That said, “wait-and-see” is generally inadvisable. If there is a delay or disability, the longer you wait to take action, the more difficult it’s going to be for your child to catch up to their peers.
Few children make zero errors when they’re learning to talk. But if you suspect your child may have a speech delay or speech-language disorder, having a speech therapy evaluation is the first step toward determining if treatment would be beneficial.