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Speech Therapy for Children
Adjunct to Traditional Speech Therapy

Facial exercise is commonly a component of speech therapy for many different facial muscle disorders. Speech therapists have showed immediate interest in its use in children who require speech therapy for articulation disorders during primary school years. Some children have documented weakness of the circumoral and other facial muscles, and it was hypothesized that those children may show an improved response to traditional speech therapy when an adjunctive exercise is added. Additionally, children with demonstrated coordination problems of these muscle groups may show improved response to speech therapy if a successful program of muscle strengthening is accomplished. As a result, a study was designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a dynamic resistant exercise device for children. Each child was monitored by a certified speech-language pathologist and received traditional speech therapy for their disorders.

The study was designed to evaluate the use of both a pediatric and adult model in children, evaluate the efficacy of building facial muscle strength in children using the device and evaluate the result of a short course of progressive resistance exercise on traditional speech therapy for many different articulation disorders.

The devices used in the study utilized mechanical assistance in a program of facial exercise. It provided dynamic resistance to the circumoral muscles and has been shown to strengthen these muscles when used in a program to maintain constant resistance with daily use. Subjects were students in Philadelphia non-public schools with speech services provided by CORA Services, Inc. From a total population of 1,200 children, 201 were selected as potential candidates for study based on the presence of one or more of the following criteria:

  • Apraxia
  • Suspected weakness and incoordination of oral-motor function
  • Poor stimulability for production of early developing phonemes: /p,b,f,v,w,wh,l/
  • Poor stimulability for production of two or more targeted phonemes
  • Poor stimulability for production of /r/

All children demonstrated improvement of oral motor strength, with an average improvement of 467% in repetition index and 224% in closure time index. Eight children had a significant improvement in articulation after the 8-week study protocol attributable to the use of progressive resistance.

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