Speech Therapy

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder – A Language Processing Disorder

Myo means muscle. An orofacial myofunctional disorder is also a language processing disorder as the oral muscles involve the jaws, lips, tongue and face. A myofunctional disorder would lead to a variation in the tongue thrust. This variation would lead to a problem with the tongue positioning while swallowing and also while at rest which could lead to various speech problems.

Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder (OMD): This language processing disorder not only is the resultant of improper tongue muscles but also, a variation in the lip muscles can cause the lips to stay separated leaving the impression of an open mouth. So, what causes this disorder?

A combination of several factors lead to this disorder-

  • oral habits like the sucking of fingers or thumb, nail biting or cheek biting, clenching or grinding of the teeth
  • a blockage in the nasal airway because of an enlarged tonsil or due to allergies
  • a physical abnormality in the tongue (too large or short)
  • neurological abnormalities

A tongue thrust is considered a normalcy during childhood, as this trait slowly disappears in due course. In a few cases though, this problem would persist making the child sound and look different when compared to the children of the same age.

Effect on Speech: Children who suffer from OMD would have a problem in producing sounds like-

j, s, z, ch, sh, zh, l, n, d, t.

  • The weak muscles in the tongue can possibly affect these sounds. For instance, a child might sound saying thumb when he/she actually means some.
  • Once, such unusual speech productions are found in a child, it is suggested to consult a paediatrician or a speech pathologist immediately.
  • Any problems like nasal airway blockage, improper tongue postures and a misalignment of the teeth or jaws is looked into and the necessary therapy would be suggested by the doctors.

Treatment: Based on the assessment done, a speech language pathologist would treat the following issues-

  • swallowing disorders
  • errors in speech sound
  • open mouth posture

Any behaviours like thumb sucking or lip biting are also addressed during the therapy.

This language processing disorder has to be addressed during the childhood itself because it is easy to deal with such issues at an early age.

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