By: Erin M. Wilson, Ph.D.,Jordan R. Green, Ph.D.,Yana Y. Yunusova, Ph.D.,and Christopher A. Moore, Ph.D.
This article addresses a long-standing clinical and theoretical debate regarding the potential relationship between speech and nonspeech behaviors in the developing system. The review is motivated by the high popularity of nonspeech oral motor exercises (NSOMEs), including alimentary behaviors such as chewing, in the treatment of speech disorders in young children. The similarities and differences in the behavioral characteristics, sensory requirements, and task goals for speech and nonspeech oromotor behaviors are compared. Integrated theoretical paradigms and empirical data on the development of early oromotor behaviors are discussed. Although the efficacy of NSOMEs remains empirically untested at this time, studies of typical developmental speech physiology fail to support a theoretical framework promoting the use of NSOMEs. Well-designed empirical studies are necessary, however, to establish the efficacy of NSOMEs for specific clinical population and treatment targets.