Tongue Pop Oral Motor Exercises

Posted by Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP on 10th Sep 2013

Tongue pops are my faaaavorite oral motor exercise.  They're a fun and easy way to work on tongue placement, oral tone, tongue elevation and control, plus tongue and jaw dissociation (skills that are necessary for proper speech, feeding, and oral motor development).

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Tongue Pop Oral Motor Exercises

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The ability to orally manage food requires a lot more skill than most people realize.  Try taking a bite out of something right now, paying attention to what your tongue is doing and how it manipulates the food.  Once the bite is fully chewed, your tongue will manipulate it into a ball (bolus).  It will then position the food bolus on top of the middle of the tongue, raise the tongue to the palate, and then squeeze it to the back of the tongue.  Once it hits the back of the tongue, it triggers a swallow.  There's a lot going on!  Doing tongue pops is a great way to exercise the tongue, build oral tone, and practice controlled, coordinated movement.

Tongue pops also work on the coordination required for proper speech and articulation.  For example, many speech sounds require tongue and jaw dissociation, or the ability of the tongue to work independently from the jaw. For example, try saying "la la la" right now, paying attention to what your tongue and jaw are doing.  The tongue tip should be elevating to the alveolar ridge (just behind the upper front teeth), and the jaw should be stable. Tongue pop exercises will work on both elevating the tongue tip, and teaching it to work separately from the jaw.  They also work the back margins of the tongue, forcing them to make contact with the upper back teeth.  This contact is how we produce R, SH, CH, DZ, S, Z, and other speech sounds.

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To do a tongue pop, instruct the individual to put their tongue tip on the alveolar ridge (behind the upper front teeth).  Then suck the tongue up into the palate, holding it there for a split second before popping it down.  Demonstrate by doing it yourself and on a puppet.  Using a mirror always helps.  It may take a while before they can make a good popping sound, so be patient. 

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Tongue Pop Oral Motor Exercises

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If the jaw is opening too wide (like in the video above) or sliding from side to side, use an Oral Motor Probe to stabilize the jaw.  Place it between the pre-molars and instruct the individual to bite down and sustain the bite as they pop their tongue.  This decreases the jaw movement and also forces the tongue to do all of the work, moving independently without assistance from the jaw.  You'll notice in the video that his jaw is still moving a bit, but this is the first time we worked on this.  The jaw will get stronger and have more control with practice.

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In the video above we're using a Y-Chew (you can also use a Grabber) to stabilize her jaw.  She's been practicing, and you can see that her jaw has very little movement!

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The last video above shows a variation of the tongue pop exercise.  Instruct the individual to place the tongue in the tongue pop position, but not to pop it.  Instruct him to hold it there as he lowers and raises his jaw.  Try this oral motor exercise yourself - it's a tough one!  It really builds jaw strength and control, while also working on tongue and jaw dissociation. .

All my best,

Debbie

Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP

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