Every child is different so are their developmental pace. Some children may have difficulty in their growth that either led to slow or late development. Children may have a problem in their speech which makes it difficult for them to talk and communicate with others that can affect their personality and overall development.
Oral Placement Therapy or OPT is a kind of speech therapy that uses a combination of visual stimulation, auditory stimulation, and tactile stimulation to help improve speech clarity and feeding skills. Oral Placement Therapy is utilized to improve and develop articulator awareness and stability, muscle memory, and placement including grading, dissociation, and direction of movement, that play a significant role in the development of speech clarity.
Elements of Speech
There are four significant elements of muscle movement which result in speech. The first element is awareness of the oral structures, which is the sensory element of movement. If the child is not able to feel the muscle position, feeding abilities and speech clarity will be compromised. A child may be tactile defensive or hypersensitive, hyposensitive to tactile input, or may have a fluctuating or mixed response to tactile inputs. These kinds of reactions can be seen in children diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD, autism, down syndromes, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, apraxia, and others. The Awareness of the oral structures helps in developing and improving speech clarity and feeding abilities.
Another critical element of speech is the placement of the oral structures. OPT does not include traditional methods, instead, it adds the tactile stimuli to explain and teach oral placement structures. Particularly in children with dyspraxia or childhood apraxia of speech, tactile cues play a significant role in improving feeding skills and speech clarity. OPT employs various therapy tools such as bubbles, jaw grading bite blocks, grabbers, horns, straws, chewy tubes, and others. These tools are used in a structured and hierarchical manner to help children maximize all their sensory systems to improve their skill levels.
Once the child becomes aware of his/her oral structures and has learned about the placement of jaws, tongue, and lips for particular sounds and feeding skills, OPT starts working on building a child’s endurance, stability, and muscle memory. It means that movements are taught to the muscles via increased repetitions to make the movements become automatic and so that they are not lost. The number of repetitions is based upon endurance, muscle memory, stability, and adequate strength requirements and should be followed closely by the therapist.
The last element of speech is the production of speech sounds or talking, which is not as easy as it seems. Speech production is a result of a lot of brain processes. One needs to be aware of his/her oral structures, placement of his/her oral structures, possess required stability, muscle memory, strength, and endurance to be able to produce speech sounds or movements required for appropriate feeding skills. One should have a strong, graded, and stable jaw to develop the foundation for good speech production skills.
Oral Placement Therapy is used to help children and individuals to have speech clarity and feeding skills. This therapy works in a structured and hierarchical manner including four critical elements of the Speech. Parents and guardians should understand the need of their child if he/she has difficulty in speaking and feeding skills and should consult a therapist to help their child develop these skills.
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