Do Oral Motor Exercises Improve Speech in Aphasia-Dysarthria?

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Do Oral Motor Exercises Improve Speech in Aphasia-Dysarthria?




Do Oral Motor Exercises Improve Speech in Dysarthria-Aphasia?


Mark A. Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP

Speech Language Pathologist 

Author:  Teaching of Talking

I’ve never placed much credence in oral motor exercises, esp. the non-speech variety.  I used to watch patients who could hardly speak spend the majority of their therapy time on exercises that did not involve the process of speaking.  Patients would be blowing bubbles, blowing through a straw, licking peanut-butter off a spoon, or licking it off the upper lips etc.  The efficacy of these exercises to me were questionable esp. when no simultaneous speaking was being practiced.  “Why aren’t they practicing talking?”  “Why are they blowing bubbles like children?”  “What’s that got to do with speaking clarity?”

People with severe aphasia and dysarthria have some pretty complex speaking difficulties and non-speech oral-motor exercises could be easier than addressing the complex task of improving speaking.    The literature clearly states that working on moving the oral structures without speaking, would NOT be helpful unless the individual with the speaking difficulty could not move the tongue, lips or teeth.

The clinical priority is to find a way to help others speak so they can be UNDERSTOOD.  The question for caregivers and therapists is:  How do I stimulate speaking clarity that would simultaneously improve the movements of the structures and muscles of speech?  The thought is to attempt to always address building muscular strength of the lips, teeth, and tongue while also teaching a person with speaking difficulty to speak and be understood.  

The goal therefore is to practice speaking in a certain way to get (1.) clarity or intelligibility while simultaneously moving the muscles and structures of speaking.  

In these days of dwindling therapy visits and caps we must make each speech therapy visit count. 

Patients receive speech therapy with one thought in mind; to talk better, to speak with more clarity, and to be understood.  That must be done in a very short period of time (“before the insurance runs out,”). That is why the truly elegant clinician should be addressing speaking immediately with ways to compensate for the motor difficulty and show the person with the speaking difficulty a way of speaking that allows them to be understood by loved ones and friends. 

The Teaching of Talking is a philosophy and approach to the stimulation of speech and talking.    It should simultaneously exercise and strengthen the muscles that have been affected by stroke, aphasia, motor dysfunction or traumatic head injury. 

Our number 1 priority as speech language pathologists should be to help the person who has a speaking difficulty speak with more clarity.  We all know how important it is to be understood.

The number 1 priority for those with speaking difficulties and their caregivers should be to find a speech language pathologist who places priority on the ability to speak, converse, and to be understood.

For those who are not receiving skilled speech therapy services our book, The Teaching of Talking would be highly beneficial for caregivers who are looking to help their loved ones at home.   

Mark A. Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP is a speech language pathologist with over 40 years of direct patient care with both children and adults.  He is also the author of Teaching of Talking, a book written for caregivers, family members, loved ones, and speech language pathologists to help them develop simple and fun ways to stimulate speech and language without flash cards, workbooks and computer programs.  To find out more about the Teaching of Talking: You can also contact me personally through our website or Facebook at  

You can learn how to really take your loved ones speech therapy to a new level. Ask your speech therapist about The Teaching of Talking Method, and that you are interested in learning it.  We will be available to come to your city, hospital, school, or college to share with you the fundamentals of this method.

You may order a copy of Teaching of Talking through our website. 

As a special promotion we are offering a free telephone consultation to anyone who purchases a copy of Teaching of Talking from our website.  Any questions you may have will be answered by me during the free telephone conference.    


Mark A. Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP

Speech Language Pathologist,

Author: Teaching of Talking

Taking a Stand for Speaking Clarity Around the Globe. 

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In a paper delivered before the American Speech Language Hearing Association in 2010, Geofrey L. Lof, Phd. presented an update regarding the controversy of non-speech oral motor exercises.  In this lengthy paper, with numerous scientific references it was concluded that these exercises are not recommended as techniques that can improve speech productions in the treatment of dysarthria and aphasia.