May is Speech and Hearing Month, and what better way to spread awareness than to share a bit of information 😊
I wanted to start with a term that I was recently introduced to: Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders…say WHAT?!? This was my exact reaction when I heard about this for the first time, only a few months ago, and I was too excited to learn what it was all about (especially since after a bit of research, I discovered that this was exactly what my 8 year old son has been showing signs of!!) Therefore, I signed up for an intensive workshop as soon as I could, the “Orofacial Rest Posture Program” (ORPP Canada), so that I could help him and others who may need this type of therapy!! Here’s what I learned:
According to ORPP, Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMDs) include anything that prevents the tongue from sitting properly in the mouth at rest. It can be caused by chronic oral habits such as thumb/finger sucking, pacifier use, etc., poor oral rest posture (i.e. where the mouth is often open at rest, while the tongue sits down and forward in the mouth) and/or the tongue moving forward or laterally between the teeth when speaking and swallowing.
Not only do OMDs often lead to dental malformations, 81% of people who suffer from an OMD also have speech difficulties. Like any other muscle in our bodies, the least amount of movement required to achieve a result, the better (think of how frustrated we feel when our tv remote stops working, and we actually have to get up from the couch to change the channel, urgh!!!). The same applies to our tongues (which is a muscle): the least amount of movement it has to do from it’s resting position, the better! However, this is not a good thing, since it will result in poor articulation and speech errors. OMDs impact sounds that require very specific tongue movements such as /s/, /z/, /sh/, /ch/, /j/, /d/, /t/, /l/ and /r/. For example, if our tongue always sits between our front teeth, we will likely talk with a frontal lisp since our tongue will also produce the /s/ sound from between our front teeth.
This training has made me realize that for many children and adults, simply working on the speech sounds themselves will not treat the foundational issue of the incorrect tongue position at rest. If we don’t work on having the tongue rest in a correct position (which we can consider as a “habit”), speech therapy can be very lengthy and costly, since we are never really addressing the root of the problem, and therefore the speech errors tend to persist despite a lot of speech therapy. And we all know how difficult bad habits are to break! A little bonus: OMDs can also lead to dental problems requiring orthodontic care. However, if the OMD is never treated and orthodontic care is provided, dental relapse will often occur!
If you think your child’s speech difficulties may be caused by an OMD, don’t wait to see if they will “outgrow” the sound errors by themselves, even if they are younger than age 6. Simply contact me for an assessment to see if orofacial myofunctional therapy is the missing link to correct sound productions. I’d be more than happy to help!
Speech-Language Pathologist, reg. CASLPO