Several diseases and disorders, such as Hypotonia and autism, can affect the muscles in the face responsible for speech. By utilizing various facial exercises to help build muscle tone and responsiveness of facial muscles, you can improve speech in many cases. Speech therapy is most often used in children, although adults can develop speech problems later in life due to health issues such as stroke or dementia, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, or ASHA.
Exaggerated Facial Expressions
This facial exercise, which is pretty straightforward, helps tone the muscles of the entire face. Mary Ann Wilson of the award-winning TV series “Sit and Be Fit” recommends using full range of motion facial exercises to help tone the muscles of the face, especially for those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. To perform this type of face toning exercise, make exaggerated facial expressions, such as smiling wide, eye-brow lift, frowning, puckering, sliding the lower jaw back and forth, closing your eyes tightly and other common facial movements. It sounds simple enough, but it’s effective in maintaining muscle tone in the face and can even delay or the onset of speech problems caused by various diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
Mouth Isolation Movements
Isolating the muscles that control the mouth with various exercises can have a positive effect on overall speech quality for those suffering from a disease that weakens the muscles, such as Bell’s palsy. BellsPalsy.ws offers a facial exercise regimen designed to tone face muscles to help improve speech in Bell’s palsy patients. This speech therapy program begins by warming up. Start by sniffling, wrinkling and flaring the nostrils. Next, raise and curl your upper lip. Third, squeeze your lips together before transitioning into a pucker as if you were whistling. Smile without showing teeth, and then do the same but show your teeth this time. Now add resistance to help tone the muscles. Place your index finger and thumb at the corners of your mouth, and slowly smile as wide as possible while providing resistance with your finger and thumb. Finally, place your hands beneath your chin and open your mouth wide while at the same time resisting the movement with your hands. Do at least 10 repetitions of each resistance exercise. Repeat this regimen two or three times per day.
Tongue, Lips and Jaw Exercise Regimen
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has designed a facial exercise program that can help to improve speech by strengthening the tongue, lips and jaw muscles. Start by sticking out your tongue as far as possible and holding it for five seconds before resting. Then do just the opposite by retracting your tongue inside your mouth and hold it at the roof of your mouth for three seconds before relaxing. Continue to stretch the tongue by working it side to side, up and down inside your mouth and by pushing it against your top teeth and then resting. Now, add resistance. Stick out your tongue as far as possible and press down on it with the back of a spoon while trying to lift the tongue. Next, do the same type of resistance exercise but move to the left and then the right. The final tongue exercise is to place a finger on your cheek about one inch from the corner of the mouth, and then push that finger with your tongue from the inside of the mouth. Hold each tongue exercise for three to five seconds, and do five repetitions of each.
Stretch your jaw much the same way you stretched your tongue. Open your mouth wide, move your lower jaw to the left and right and move your jaw in a circular motion. Hold each movement for approximately five seconds before resting, and do five repetitions of each movement. You may then provide slight resistance with your hand to each of these three movements to help tone the muscles.
Finally, your lips play an important part of speech. Begin exercising your lips by smiling for five seconds and then relaxing. Next, pucker your lips in a kissing posture for five seconds. Combine the two movements by smiling and then transitioning into a pucker, making sure to use exaggerated movements. Press the lips tightly together and hold this for five seconds before resting. Use a tongue depressor or similar tool, and squeeze your lips around it while you try to pull it out of your mouth. Finally, fill your cheeks with air and move the air from one cheek to the other 10 times. Repeat each lip exercise five times.