Dribbly kids & unclear speech

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Do you know kids who are messy eaters, who dribble, whose talking is unclear or whose speech is not understood by people outside the immediate family?
Difficulty moving and using the muscles of their mouth (oro-motor skills) is the most probable explanation. The ability to move and co-ordinate the mouth muscles (lips/tongue/palate) and breathing to produce speech influences the clarity of speech produced (articulation) and can result in a child drooling.
A child’s learning to say their sounds correctly can have an impact on social interaction as well as future schooling. Children who don’t say their sounds clearly may not be easily understood by others and are more likely to attraction the attention of a bully. ‘Sloppy’ talking (poor articulation) can also compromise spelling skills as children may attempt to write the word the way they are saying it – e.g. if a child has difficulty saying the ‘r’ sound they may write the word ‘red’ as “wed” which creates a very different word).All children will go through some sound error patterns (i.e. mispronunciation of sounds) as they are learning to talk, but these should disappear by certain ages. For most children, their speech should be easily understood by most listeners between the ages of 3 and 4 years (for more information on specific ages please consult a Speech Therapist). But some kids need extra help to get over the hurdle to good mouth control for talking and eating.At Kid Sense we see lots of children with articulation difficulties or whose mouth muscles are floppy and therefore they are dribbly. Finding fun ways to help is a never ending battle, so here are some ideas to get you started.

What can I do to improve my child’s oro-motor skills? In short, them develop control of their lips and tongue using the tips below.

Activities to develop tongue skills

In these activities it is the tongue that is supposed to be doing the work. You may need to gently hold the child’s head so that they do not turn their head but rather they move their tongue.

  • Try licking ‘100s and 1000s’ from a plate using the tongue tip.
  • Hold a lolly or ice cube a distance in front of the child and encourage them to stick their tongue right out in order to lick it.
  • Look at yourself sticking out your tongue in the mirror.
  • Move the tongue from side to side both inside and outside of the mouth.
    • To move the tongue inside the mouth, encourage your child to push out their cheeks using their tongue.
    • To move the tongue from side to side outside the mouth encourage your child to place their tongue in one corner of their mouth and then move it to the other corner.
  • Place food items (e.g. jam, chocolate spread, Nutella, cheese spread) on the cheek, just to the left or right of the lips, under the nose or under the bottom lip, near the chin and encourage your child to use their tongue to lick the food off.
  • Lick up and try to touch your nose wothj your tongue – use a mirror if this helps.
  • Put something sticky (e.g. jam) in a shallow container, such as an egg cup, and then try and lick it clean.

Activities to develop lip skills

  • Practice making lips into a kissing shape in the mirror. Practice moving from a stretched ‘ee’ position to a rounded ‘oo’ position. Repeat this several times.
  • Apply lipstick and make different shaped lip-prints on paper (e.g. small circles, big circles, stretched out smile shapes).
  • Make bubbles by blowing through a straw into a glass of water.
  • Play blow football with straws and polystyrene balls. Set up a goal with duplo or 2 glasses and use the straw to blow the ball between for a goal.
  • Use whistles, party blowers to practice blowing. Make sure your child holds the instruments with the lips, not teeth.

Activities to develop tongue and lip skills when making sounds

  • Practice moving from one lip position to another in sequence whilst making the sound ‘oo’ and then ‘ee’ (e.g. oo ee oo ee oo ee).
  • Try saying the same sound five times, slowly at first, and then faster if possible (e.g.ppppp, ttttt, kkkkk).
  • Try sequencing sounds together that use the lips and then use the tongue (e.g. p –t – k, p – t – k, p – t – k). Once your child can do one set, try and see if they can do 4 or 5 sets.
  • Draw a ladder or make a ladder out of masking tape on the carpet. Get your child to make a sequence of two or three of the sounds (e.g. p – t – k; b – d – g; f – s – – sh) as they ‘walk’ a toy character up each rung of the ladder.
  • Make stepping stones. Put a sequence of letters or symbols on the stepping stones.  Get your child to make the correct sound as they step on each stone.

We are always on the look out for more ideas, so please let us know your tricks and tips as well!

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