The tongue is connected to the jaw, so wherever the jaw goes, the tongue follows. Speech sounds are properly articulated when the jaw and tongue are at midline and symmetrical. So if the jaw and tongue slide left or right as you talk, it can cause a lateral lisp and unclear/slushy speech.Having control over your jaw is also important for biting and chewing skills, for holding your jaw in place when at rest, and for jaw grading. So for all of the above, it’s important to strengthen and stabilize the jaw at center.
Exercise for jaw strengthening and stability.
The Grabber and Y-Chew are among my favorite tools to work on jaw strength and stability (as well as many other oral motor skills). The long extensions make them perfect for any biting/chewing exercises. You can also use the Probe and/or Z-Vibe instead if you have them.
To work on jaw strength and stability: Place the extension of the Grabber or Y-Chew in between the individual’s premolars. Have the individual bite down (and sustain the bite) for 10 seconds at a time, as shown in the video below. Repeat about 3 times on both sides. If necessary, put your hand under the chin for support and/or guidance. To make the exercise more difficult, gently do a “tug and pull” motion as the individual bites down and holds the Grabber or Y-Chew in place (as shown in the second half of the video below). Make it a game, telling them, “Don’t let me get it out!” You just want to be careful not to let the head jerk and to keep it as stable as possible, letting the jaw do all of the work.
As you do the above exercises, be sure to watch for good positioning and control. You want the upper central teeth to line up with the bottom central teeth, with no sliding of the jaw.
If it’s not lining up, switch to using the loop of the Grabber instead, and place it in the front of the mouth (as in the video below). This position will force the individual to bite on both sides at the same side so the jaw can’t shift and will instead stay centrally aligned.
Placing the extension of the Grabber or Y-Chew laterally in front of the mouth (as shown in the images below) is another option.
.Or, you can use two Grabbers (or Y-Chews or Probes) simultaneously – one of either side of the mouth in between the molars.
As always, keep in mind that you may have to start with a shorter count, and work up to 10. If you only get a couple counts, that’s okay! Make a note of the progress, and try to do more in the next practice session.
A note on counting: you’ll notice that I don’t always have the same beat to my counts in the video. If I sense that the child is losing interest, I mix things up to refocus their attention. You can change the beat, count faster or slower, say it with a deep voice or a high voice or anything in between, count backwards, use funny voices, and so forth. Just have fun 🙂