Drooling/Feeding Problems & Speech Delay
Most infants and toddlers go through periods of drooling.
Most often drooling is related to teething, so it should ebb and flow, peaking as the primary teeth erupt and then disappearing completely by the age of three.
Children whose drooling doesn’t resolve by age 3 are warning us of a potential problem. Clearly, a drooling child’s lips are frequently open, which is a sign that the lip muscles are weak.
Frequently the child is also having problems with chewing and swallowing, which suggests that the tongue and jaw muscles are also weak.
These are also the tongue and jaw muscles that are needed for speech.
Children whose muscles are too weak for lip closure, chewing and swallowing are at risk for speech delays as well.
To properly produce the sounds “p” and “b”, you have to firmly close your lips. To produce the sounds “t” and “d”, you have to tap your tongue tip on the front of your palate. The “k” and “g” sounds are produced with the back of the tongue raised to the back of the palate. And the “l” and “r” sounds are produced with a complex series of muscle movements that require a strong, toned tongue.
Toddlers can learn fun exercises to strengthen and tone their lips.
Toddlers can learn to chew solid foods and develop a mature rotary chew. They can learn to drink properly from straws and cups and quit using sippy cups and bottles to help eliminate their tongue thrusts. And these healthy eating habits will prepare them to produce clearer speech.
Two- and three-year olds whose speech is difficult to understand should be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist who understands the connection between drooling/feeding and speech problems.
Many times, the efficacy of speech therapy is greatly enhanced by combining it with an effective drinking and feeding program.
How Can We Help?
The specialists at Jodie K. Schuller & Associates are professional speech and language therapists, many with over 25 years of experience in communicative disorders. Licensed by the state of California as speech-language pathologists, our therapists have completed advanced training in oral-motor development taught by leading experts in the field such as Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP, and Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP. This training has prepared therapists to diagnose and treat oral-motor disorders involving drooling, chewing, swallowing and open-mouth breathing as well as speech production disorders. Therapists have also been trained through the International Association of Orofacial Mylogy (IAOM) to identify and treat unhealthy tongue thrusts and improper tongue resting postures. With this advanced training, therapists are prepared to eliminate thumb sucking and to treat individuals who suffer from serious related issues such as Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ), chronic headaches and sleep apnea.