TONGUE THRUST / MYOFUNCTIONAL THERAPY
IN THE WAYLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The goal of a speech-language pathologist in a school setting is to ensure, as reasonably as can
be expected, that a child's communicative skills are sufficient to meet the demands of his/her
school environment. A child's communicative skills need to be developmentally appropriate
for him or her to manage the curriculum and interact effectively with his/her age peers and
teachers. Any child who is failing within a regular classroom under Massachusetts law may be
entitled to services in the area(s) of special needs which requires assistance for that child to
Tongue thrust or myofunctional therapy corrects an infantile swallowing pattern which
adversely affects the formation of the dental arch. Since the structures involved in a tongue
thrust include the tongue and teeth, it has been hypothesized that articulation of speech sounds
is also affected.
Misarticulations are not always associated with a tongue thrust and the influence of tongue
thrusting on speech production is unclear. Researchers who have examined tongue thrusting
have studied children who tongue thrust and lisped, the misarticulation pattern associated with
a tongue thrust, as well as children who tongue thrust and do not lisp (Dworkin and Culatta,
1980; Christensen and Hanson, 1981). The findings are inconclusive. No clear causal
relationship or correlation was found between tongue thrusting and lisping.
Since the Wayland School's speech-language program is to address communicative disorders
which interfere with children's success in the school environment (the school environment
here refers to curriculum and children's interactions with peers and teachers), treatment of a
tongue thrust to address dental malocclusion is unwarranted. However, should a child who has
a tongue thrust present with a frontal lisp or other misarticulations, he/she will receive
services to remediate the misarticulations if the pattern is developmentally inappropriate.
(Lisping is commonly seen in children up to the age of seven.)
Treatment for an articulation disorder will be based on standard procedures for correcting
misarticulations or phonological errors. Because the relationship between tongue thrust
therapy and misarticulations, primarily a frontal lisp, has not been established, tongue thrust
therapy is not a viable treatment offered by the Wayland Public Schools.
Christensen, M. and Hanson, M. (1981). An Investigation of the efficacy of oral myofunctional therapy as
a precursor to articulation therapy for pre-first grade children. The Journal of Speech and Hearing
Disorders, 46, 160-165.