After the original assessments, the speech therapist can then determine the child’s diagnosis and create a treatment plan. Treatment usually consists of exercises tailored to the child’s specific struggles with communication or swallowing. Assistive communication devices and sign language are often used to help the child express himself or herself. These are especially helpful in more severe cases, as when children are completely nonverbal.
Exercises Used in Speech Therapy
Many different exercises are used in speech therapy. Each child’s treatment plan will be different based on their individual challenges and needs.
Some examples of common exercises for speech therapy include:
- Articulation Therapy – Using language cards to help focus on specific sounds; encouraging children to make sounds while looking in the mirror to help them understand how their mouth moves.
- Blowing Exercises – Blowing bubbles or a whistle to train the mouth muscles to produce certain sounds and strengthen abdominals for breath control.
- Breathing Exercises – Working on inhalation and exhalation to strengthen the diaphragm.
- Jaw Exercises – Eating foods that require extra chewing, like celery, apples and carrots, to strengthen jaw muscles; practicing opening and shutting their mouth using only the jaw muscles while someone else holds their chin.
- Language and Word Association – Using flashcards with different words and sounds written on them; putting together puzzle pieces with words that go together, like “sock” and “shoe,” “toothbrush” and “toothpaste,” and “bat” and “ball.”
- Lip Exercises – Squeezing their lips around a lollipop to increase strength; pursing their lips to kiss a lollipop to improve lip extension.
- Swallowing Exercises – Doing an “effortful swallow,” which is collecting saliva in the mouth and swallowing it in one gulp; doing a “masako maneuver,” which is when the child sticks their tongue out, gently bites it with their teeth to hold in place and then practices swallowing.
- Tongue Exercises – Strengthening the tongue by sticking it out and pushing it against a tongue depressor or spoon for seconds at a time.