Could Poor Jaw Control Be Impacting Your Child’s Speech?
Lips never touch? Constant drool? It all comes back to jaw control. When we have limited ability to control our jaw you might see things like open mouth posture, drool, and delays in producing sounds like p, b, m, f, v, s and z.
It’s also important to note that the only jaw movement that we should have is up and down. Our jaw should never move left to right or down then right then up. TRY IT AT HOME: Take your pointer finger like you’re counting to one and place your middle finger right next to it. The width of your two fingers together is the widest your mouth should EVER be open. It’s the same for any person and their two fingers.
HELPING HAND POSITION (HHP)
Make a “thumb’s up” gesture then point your first finger outward. Now move this hand position to your child’s face with their chin resting between your thumb and first finger. Your thumb and index finger should be firm along the jaw. This can be used to support the jaw. I often move my middle finger under the chin for additional support. This will be our basic hand position to help jaw movement.
Common Problems with the Jaw
1. Poor Neutral Resting Position
when at rest, your jaw and lips should be closed (unless mouth breathing). If your child’s jaw is not closed at rest or while not speaking, you can use your hands to help. Using the HHP, when you notice your child’s mouth is open, assist them in closing their jaw with the verbal cue, “Close your mouth.” Be gentle when moving the jaw upward as to not click their teeth together. If they tolerate this movement, attempt to hold their jaw closed 3-5 seconds. The end goal would be closed jaw and lips when not speaking.
2. Lateral Movement
Our jaw should never move left to right. Using the HHP, when you notice your child’s mouth moving left to right, assist them in keeping their jaw movement up and down vs. left and right with the verbal cue, “Up and down, no wiggle jaw.” It might require you to maintain hold on their jaw to prevent movement left to right. When using the HHP – have your kiddo say single words first, then try to reduce the support you give with the HHP, and then move to two-word phrases.
3. Too Many Degrees of Freedom
As mentioned above, your mouth should never be open more than the width of your two fingers. When your mouth is open wider than two finger widths, it is called, “too many degrees of freedom.” Using the HHP, gently guide your child’s mouth open as it moves naturally, without it opening more than two finger widths. When using the HHP – have your kiddo say single words first, then try to reduce the support you give with the HHP, and then move to two-word phrases.
Note: When using the HHP, try to reduce the amount of support given- like reducing the amount of pressure you give with your hand, or eventually having them try it out without your help. Practice in single words first, then two-word phrases, and up!