But I shall elaborate. Please read on for what WILL help.
Tongue exercises are part of what we call Non Speech Oral Motor Exercises (or NSOMEs for short). They are non speech as they do not include any speech production, but have some relation to speech.
Blowing horns, blowing up balloons, sucking through straws, lip pouts, licking sprinkles from the corners of your mouth, sticking your tongue out as far as it will go, and MANY MORE!
Before I go into the research and evidence - just have a think to yourself about WHY you think these help with speech?
Is it to strengthen the mouth muscles? To create new motor patterns? To practice copying? Because your Speech Therapist suggested it? or because your child has Dysarthia, Dyspraxia, Cleft lip/palate? Because an expert on the internet has proven it?
You are not on your own, but sadly, what I'm about to tell you isn't anything new...some of this research has been known to speech and language therapists across the globe for over a decade!
Speech and Language therapists break 'speech' down into many parts. Using words (vocabulary), saying sentences (expressive language) and pronunciation of letters (speech).
Many parents and some therapists are using NSOMEs to help with all of these aspects and I feel it is REALLY important to share with you that these do not work.
I'm telling you this because I want to help you spend more time on doing things that actually WILL work, and have been proven to work.
In response to the question above about WHY do you think they help, I will spend some time going through various reasons and tell you what the research says.
They do not strengthen / warm up mouth muscles
The muscles of the mouth are different to other muscles of the body. Limited strength is needed to speak and the muscles don't need warming up first. For children with muscle tone, working on strength would not improve tone as these are different.
They do not create new motor patterns
Speech is much more than just a motor skill because it involves communication. Speech motor tasks are stored in the brain in a very different way than other tasks. Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists work on motor patterns when it is proven that this will work for the areas of the body and brain they are working with.
Copying these NSOMEs has no benefit
The parts of the brain that control movements for these NSOMEs are different to the parts of the brain that control speech. Copying actual speech movements or even any other copying, as long as it's the same as what you need them to do, is much more effective.
Speech Therapists must follow the evidence and research
Speech and Language Therapists must base their therapy, advice and approaches in line with evidence and research. Parents are trusting our expert opinion and may not challenge or question our logic. For over a decade NSOMEs have been proven not to benefit speech. In fact, for 50 years, blowing activities have been proven not to stop air coming out of a child's nose with they speak (with a cleft palate for example), but this is still a method used!
They still don't work if your child has Dysarthria, Dyspraxia or Cleft Palate
I hope from the explanations above you can see why. Doing these exercises won't cause any harm, but you will be missing time and opportunities doing things that will actually help.
Please don't trust Dr Google
Be cautious about what you find on the internet. Make sure information is based on valid research and coming from a certified and fully qualified professional. A Speech and Language Therapist is your expert for speech.
Speech Mum's concluding advice:
Please do not be disheartened if you have been directed to doing NSOMEs with a view to help speech. You won't have caused any harm and may have had lots of fun! A few simple mouth movements MAY help the child focus on the mouth but that's all they need to be seen as, a few, then spend the rest of the time doing things that are proven to work.
I hope that you are now confident to challenge this approach and will spend time speaking to your Speech and Language Therapist about moving forwards with other activities. If you still want to continue with these activities, make sure that they are not a goal e.g. 'will be able to lick lips in a circle 5 times' and are just a bit of fun. Goals should be about speech or the underpinning skills of speech, which these are not.
Children with speech difficulties (using vocabulary, making sentences and pronouncing sounds) that are not yet ready to focus on these areas will benefit from non speech activities such as the underpinning skills of the communication pyramid (see your free copy here:
Once your child is ready to work on actual speech production, they will need to work on mouth placements that are the same as what we use in speech.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I will be happy to help point you in the right direction and support you however I can.
ASHA Technical Report on Childhood Apraxia of Speech (2007). Bunton, K. (2008). Speech versus nonspeech: Different tasks, different neural organization. Seminars in Speech and Language, 29(4), 267‐275. Forrest, K. (2002). Are oral‐motor exercises useful in the treatment of phonological/articulatory disorders? Seminars in Speech and Language, 23, 15‐ 25 Golding‐Kushner, K. (2001). Therapy techniques for cleft palate speech and related disorders. Clifton Park, NY: Thompson. Kent, R. (2004). The uniqueness of speech among motor systems. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 18, 495‐505. Lof, G.L. (2009). The nonspeech‐oeral motor exercise phenomenon in speech pathology practice. In C. Bower, Children’s speech sound disorders. Oxford: Wiley‐Blackwell, pp. 181‐184. Lof, G.L. (2004). What does the research report about non‐speech oral motor exercises and the treatment of speech sound disorders