Language problems can affect many children diagnosed within the autism spectrum disorder. However, some kids suffer those problems and aren’t in the spectrum. This happens because there are many reasons behind language problems besides autism: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), difficulties in the muscles involved in the speech process, or even emotional distress. Sometimes, there’s no external factor: the most common source for these sort of problem is the way in which children acquire their language skills.
Speech ability can get better with the appropriate therapy, and activities specially designed for improving language skills, depending on how children develop those. Many of them consist of performing certain movements, where u the main speech organs (cheeks, mouth, lips, tongue and vocal cords) are involved. Here we have ten exercises that therapists use, and that are easy to do at home.
These are simple and repetitive movements while producing sounds along with the breathing. Kids can do nasal and vocal inspirations and expirations, retaining the air between the changes is good, too. Another way to do it is to maintain the air inside the mouth and nose alternating progressively between the two. Changing the breathing speed is one of the final exercises to practice, it can be done with inspirations and exhalations; it has to be practiced with both shallow and deep breaths.
These can be done with different objects, but the main point is to get better lip movement and air control. Among the activities there are:
- Blowing paper balls across a table: which could be turned into a game like soccer where the kid that put his paper ball inside the goal wins.
- Blowing out candles: they can be of different sizes.
- Taking down a paper tower: make one with small papers and have the kid take it down by blowing on the stack.
- Blowing soap bubbles: you can let your kid have some fun with these; it’s better if children practice the blowing movements while having fun. You can also ask them to try to incorporate sounds which each blow.
In this exercise, children have to constantly repeat the vowels while exhaling slowly. They ought to do as many repetitions as the therapist wishes, as long as the kid feel good and comfortable. Usually, vowels are the easiest letters to pronounce, hence why a better pronunciation of vowels can be a good starting point to build up language skills.
Using a drum or any surface that has a good enough sound produce different beats, and then have the kid repeat them using his voice and mouth. You have to pay attention to his performance and help him to follow the rhythm with his own sounds, correcting when necessary. Rhythm is essential for children, that way they can learn to articulate words better.
Here therapist will use common consonants with vowels, children have to repeat the syllable with the same vowel several times to catch rhythm and pronunciation, than change the vowel, repeat the process until all the vowels are used with the chosen consonant. Next day the therapist can choose another consonant and continuing the game, their pronunciation will improve with the constant repetition.
Here therapists use poetry, tongue twister or short sentences from children’s books, to make kids pronounce and articulate the letters and syllables that they are mastering. With practice they will get a better use of them; it can be accompanied with beats for rhythm.
Some issues with the complex phonemes are related to tongue movements, therefore doing exercises with it can help achieve a better pronunciation. These can be: turns in every direction, stretching the tongue to the top palate, eating chewing gum, touching each tooth with the tip of the tongue, and using a pencil or a chopstick under the tongue while speaking to improve pronunciation.
Both the child and whoever plays the role of the therapist will be in a room entirely silent. Then the therapist will perform a series of sounds, and the kid needs to pay attention to identify and repeat them. One of the benefits of this is that children can recognize sounds and where are they come from.
There are many movements with which to exercise the lips, just like the tongue. They can be tightened and loosened, separated and put back together quickly, or you can have children repeat a consonant that uses the lips exclusively for its pronunciation. At home, you can look up ways how singers warm-up, and then practice them with your kids. These can be fun to do together because they can bring laughter for both.
Inflate the cheeks, while retaining air for some seconds and then deflate them, and start over doing several repetitions. Finally use water, keeping it on the mouth and then moving it from cheek to cheek.
All these exercises can be done at home. Remember that, for children, approaching them as if they’re just games is always the best. Practice with them and in time you will observe the difference and see how their skills are improving. Come to Autism Soccer, we offer excellent programs for the development of children and a place for them to be comfortable and happy.
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