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Exercises to Strengthen the Soft Palate

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Lip Exercises to Strengthen Weak Muscle Tone in Cheeks

All material Copyright © May 2009 The Down Syndrome Centre
Reprinted with the express permission of the Down Syndrome Centre as originally published on their website.

By: Marinet vanVuren
Marinet vanVuren is a South African born Speech and Language Therapist. For the past seven years she has worked with a range of Irish disability organisations including Enable Ireland, St Michael’s House and the Children's Sunshine Home. She recently set up her own private speech and language therapy practice where she sees children of all disabilities with various speech, language and feeding difficulties.


The Soft Palate is the soft part at the back of the roof of your mouth. It is the muscular continuation of the hard palate. The soft palate performs a very important function. It moves up and down during speech and swallowing. When it moves up against the back of the throat, the soft palate closes off the nose by shutting off the nasal passages. This movement of the soft palate is essential during blowing and sucking activities as well as for the production of most speech sounds (except /m, /ng/ and /n/ ). If the soft palate is not moving well, speech can have a nasal quality. If your child has nasal speech or find it difficult to suck and blow, try the following activities:

1. Practice these humming sequences:
  • Hum – blow up cheeks – hum
  • Hum – blow up cheeks – say “p”
  • Hum – blow up cheeks – say “b”
  • Blow up cheeks – say “p”
  • Blow up cheeks – say “b”
  • Continue the blow up cheeks – speech sound sequence with other speech sounds

2. Suck smoothies using straight and curly straws.

3. Blowing out candles by saying “p” gently.

4. Blowing out candles. Set up a row of five candles placed in something steady, e.g.: playdough. Aim to blow each candle using one breath per candle. Aim also for long blows by attempting to blow out all six candles together.

5. Blowing bubbles through a plastic wand or other bubble blowers.

6. Blowing bubbles through liquids with thick consistencies (e.g.: yoghurt or milkshake)

7. Blowing paints across sheets of paper.

8. Practising blowing through the mouth. Block your child’s nose and then unblock it to practise a consistent oral airflow.

9. Blowing through horns.

10. Yawn and say “ah”. The yawn forces the child to arch the palate upwards thus occluding the nasal cavity. 11. Yawn and say “ah”. Watch each other’s palates move in the mirror as you say “ah”


Other sucking and blowing games:

Blowing, Aim: to sustain a blow out for a certain period of time.

1. Blowing bubbles into the bath, or cup/container and timing the length of the blow.

2. Fogging up a mirror by blowing onto it with an open mouth

3. Blowing a cotton ball/bead/foam ball.

4. Blowing small, lightweight toys (e.g. plastic toys out of Christmas crackers).

5. Blowing toy whistles or harmonicas.
Sucking, Aim: develop ability to suck in voluntarily (which aids lip seal)



1. Sucking liquid through straws and plastic tubing (available from hardware stores).

2. Sucking a small craft ball / packing material onto a straw and lifting it up.

3. Buy some different shaped lollipops (e.g., Chupa Chups, Melody Pops) with different ends to suck on. This helps gain a better awareness of tongue / lips and will give practice at swallowing.

Resources:

Earnest, M.M. (2000). Preschool Motor Speech Evaluation and Intervention. Pro-Ed, Austin, Texas.

Bahr, D.C. (2001). Oral Motor Assessment and Treatment: Ages and Stages. Allyn & Bacon. A Pearson Heights Company.
The Nuffield Centre Dyspraxia Programme – Advice Sheets.

Featured Organization: The Down Syndrome Centre

We thank the Down Syndrome Centre for allowing us to reprint their copyrighted article. For more information about this organization please visit The Down Syndrome Centre

Tags: Down Syndrome SLP Oral Motor Therapy Article