Question: My son struggles to use his words appropriately; do you have any tips on how to boost his functional speech?
Dr. Olejak: Dear Functional Speech,
Do you recall the moment in the film The King’s Speech where Colin Firth is overcome by fear when faced with public speaking? And how his therapist helped him overcome that fear by helping him find the confidence in himself? I think the words Geoffrey Rush used were: “you needn’t be governed by fear.” Truer words have not been spoken.
Functional speech is a matter of technique and for that a qualified speech therapist is required, but the confidence part falls squarely in our laps as parents.
If your child is under two years old and is having delayed speech an early intervention program may be needed. If in pre-school or elementary then the school will have a dedicated person to do a speech evaluation.
Oral and diaphragm exercises may be needed. Yoga breathing is very helpful.
What I’m about to suggest might sound crazy, but I encourage you to give it a try … take your son outdoors and have him do a ropes course. Here in the Northeast many ski resorts have turned their slopes into great ropes courses in the summer. If you can’t find one check out Outward Bound or some other outdoors program that offers climbing, rappelling and zip lines.
Having a child rappel off a 60 foot cliff and climb back up can be a great confidence builder. When I was 16 (and very clumsy) I took a ropes course with a teacher who 32 years later is still a close friend. There was a point about 40 feet up in air where I had to make a move and jump from one rock ledge to another. Even though I was belayed and terrified. I took the risk and jumped. Taking action in the face of uncertainty instilled confidence in me -- an experience that has never left me.
If heights are not a good idea then give horseback riding a try. A patient of mine runs a stable that teaches horseback riding to handicapped children and at risk youth. I’ve seen amazing results with kids and horses in terms of confidence and mastering physical space.
With speech on some level it is pure neurological integration and anything that teaches fine motor coordination will help so that could be sports too.
Chiropractic can play a role here too. The muscles of the larynx are under the control of the vagus nerve (cranial n. 10). The upper cervical spine (C1 and C2) has effects on the vagus n. when misaligned. Chiropractic is not just for adults with back pain. It is really all about integrating the nervous system and there is no faster way to reset and reboot than correcting the vertebral subluxation at occiput-C1 and C1-C2.
Cytoflora has been shown to improve speech and non-verbal communication, improve mature interactions and increase the gut to brain connection.