Could Difficult Behaviors be the Clue to a Surprising Discovery?

23 Sep 2015

BY: trini

Language / Orofacial Myology / Speech Therapy

by Carolinda “Trini” Myers-Murphy

I just received an interesting article in our American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) journal.  It is something that we see all too often in our office here at Speech Solutions Hawaii, so I thought it was definitely worth the “share” and to start talking about it.

All too often we get referred to see a child who has a pesky /r/ sound, “and that’s it” says the mom. Or just the /s/ sound, orrrr, just a hard time with reading in school.  The list of singular symptoms goes on and on.   Shortly after a student walks through the door however, we notice that the face tells all.

As speech-language pathologists know, one of the tongue’s biggest roles—and the most essential to human life—is maintaining the airway for breathing. A lingual frenulum restriction affects the genioglossus muscle (a known upper-airway dilator) because the frenulum fibers don’t stretch. This aspect of a speech-language assessment, however, can easily be overlooked in the midst of so much ground to cover in a limited amount of time.

An orofacial myofunctional exam can reveal additional factors that pointed to a potentially compromised airway: a low forward tongue posture at rest (further visible by protrusion of the tongue through the teeth and lips), open lips at rest, a high narrow palate, wear patterns on the teeth (sign of possible nocturnal teeth grinding), enlarged tonsils and a convex facial profile (a pronounced head and recessed chin).

Studies from the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery (see sources from the study) show that a child with enlarged tonsils, malocclusion and convex facial profile has a two-to-three times greater risk for sleep-disordered breathing.

According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine, sleep problems affect up to 45 percent of the world’s population.  Sleep disordered breathing alone can increase a child’s risk for special educational needs by 40 percent!  That’s staggering!!

Quality of sleep is the foundation of every human function.  If this is compromised, it could negatively affect a whole multitude of health issues such as:

  • physical growth
  • learning and academics
  • socialization
  • emotion well-being
  • swallowing
  • communication
  • executive-function skills

Please check the original article out for yourself.  I hope that you find it as interesting as we did.