Oral Motor Exercises
to Try at Home
Here is a list of effective oral motor exercises and dysarthria exercises you can practice on your own.
And maybe even have a little fun ...
Blowing Bubbles This may seem a bit immature, but it is a great exercise for breath control as well as pursing the lips.
In our own experience the clients that we've worked with have all enjoyed this activity. Remember, you're never too old to have some fun!
Blow a Harmonica Here is another great oral motor exercise for breath control and lip pursing, but with this one you get to make some noise!
- If breath control is weak then your goal might be to get "louder" sounds from the harmonica.
- If your lip strength is weak you might focus on trying to play just one note at a time.
Harmonica's are inexpensive (you can even use a plastic one), and all in all it's another fun activity.
Blow a Kazoo This is also an inexpensive "instrument." The kazoo will not only help your breath control, but it will also help with vocal control as well.
Because you have to hum to get any sound out of a kazoo.
At first you can try to make a simple humming sound. As you progress you can try to vary the pitch of your hum and even try to play a simple tune (like, "Mary had a Little Lamb").
Using a Straw Practicing with a straw will obviously work on sucking skills, however it also involves pursing those lips again.
"Thin" liquids like water or apple juice are good starters.
As you progress you might want to try a "thicker" liquid like a milk shake.
Do not use this exercise if you or your loved one has feeding or swallowing difficulties.
Have you ever heard of isometric exercises?
Isometrics are a type of strength training whereby you push your muscles against an immovable force. They are a very effective technique for increasing muscle strength.
For this oral motor exercise you will need a tongue depressor or a spoon. You will also need another person to provide the "immovable force."
First, stick your tongue straight out in front of you. Have the object pressed against your tongue tip. Push against the object as hard as you can for a count of 5, then relax.
Try to do this six to eight times in a row.
Next, again stick out your tongue in front of you. This time have the object placed on the right side of your tongue. Press against the object as hard as you can (like you're trying to push the object to the corner of your mouth). Hold for a count of 5.
Try to do this six to eight times in a row.
Do this oral motor exercise one more time pushing against the immovable object with the left side of your tongue.
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You can do this jaw exercise yourself or have someone help you. Start with your mouth open. Have someone hold your chin firmly. Try to close your mouth using nothing but your jaw muscles - do not move your head! Hold for a count of 5.
You will definitely feel fatigue in your jaw muscles after doing this a few times. Start out only doing 3-5 of these.
Now, for the next jaw exercise you start in the opposite direction. Start with your mouth closed. This time have someone place their hand under your chin. Without moving your head try to open your mouth. Hold for a count of 5.
Try 3-5 and increase the amount as you gain strength.
NOTE: Even if you can open your mouth against your partner's hand, remember that this exercise will build strength by steadily resisting force.
Doing the exercises properly is important. Take your time and focus on each motion as well as the muscles you are using.
The following oral motor exercises provide tactile stimulation. Tactile Stimulation refers to stimulating or "waking up" a muscle area by sense of touch.
Brushing Using a toothbrush, brush the upper and lower lips. You can purchase toothbrushes with different levels of stiffness. Try to use different levels ranging from very soft to stiff (never use anything that may cause pain).
You can also use the brushing technique on the muscles surrounding the mouth (including the jaw).
IcingPutting ice on the lips will certainly help "wake up" those muscles. You can use a plain ice cube for this exercise, but ice pops are easier to use and add some flavor as well.
Run the ice from the middle of the lips outward to the corner. Do this on both sides and then ask your loved one to smile. Repeat the icing movements and the smiling attempts several times.
Licking Ice Cream Who wouldn't enjoy this activity? Put some ice cream in a cone and let it melt a little. Then practice using just your tongue (no lips) to lick the dripping ice cream.
This is a great tongue exercise and a delicious treat all at the same time. How is that for fun therapy?
Once again, this is not intended for use by anyone with feeding or swallowing difficulties.
Peanut Butter on the Lips Rub some peanut butter on your lips and do your best to lick it all off. Make sure you apply the peanut butter from one corner of the mouth to the other.
This will force the tongue to reach from side-to-side to lick that tasty spread. This should go without saying by now, but never use this with anyone experiencing feeding or swallowing difficulties.
Using Feedback During Independent Practice
If you are practicing independently, how do you know if you are doing the lip, tongue and jaw exercises correctly?
A simple solution: Use a Mirror.
A mirror is often used by therapists to give patients immediate feedback. This gives them the chance to see if they are doing each exercise correctly and if not, what needs to be modified.
If you are practicing at home, using a mirror will help you adjust and self-correct your oral motor practice.
Need More Oral Motor Exercises?
As speech-language pathologists we've put together a collection of the most effective oral motor exercises for your convenience:
Professional Oral Motor Exercises
on DVD and VHS
Now you can advance your improvements at home by owning a collection of the most widely used oral motor exercises on video.
Affordable and easy-to-use, this state-of-the-art video is like having a private therapist arrive at your home everyday.
Use the link below to learn more about this innovative program:
Use Oral Motor Exercises on video and start Improving Your Speech Today!
Oral Motor Exercises
Specifically designed to entertain and teach at the same time Sammy Speakwell and his special guest,
Kelly Anne guide children through over 40 minutes
of the latest clinical oral motor exercises.
Visit Sammy's page to watch a video of his
oral motor exercise DVD.
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