Speech Articulation Problems in Kids with Autism

Speech articulation problems in children with or without autism can be affected by their feeding, drinking, and other oral motor habits. By adjusting some of these habits, you can get better speech development and articulation in many of your children and clients.

Today I’m sharing a small excerpt from a podcast episode with speech and language pathologist Dr. Joanne Gerenser where we discuss ways we can help children with speech problems. You can check out the full podcast episode for more of our conversation.

Speech Articulation

Dr. Gerenser came to present in Berks County back in 2000/2001. I was going to take her out to dinner, so I thought I would bring her to my home and have her do a quick 15-minute look at Lucas. The one piece of advice I remember she said was to get rid of the spill-proof sippy cup. That was really key information. I’ve done video blogs on getting rid of bottles and pacifiers and spill-proof sippy cups. There’s a lot of similarities between eating, drinking, sucking problems, and talking problems. This is what Dr. Gerenser had to say about why she recommended this to me and recommends the same to others.

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Dr. Gerenser on Speech Articulation

“We as speech pathologists have taken entire courses on speech development. And we don’t agree all the time, but it’s very scientific literature we have. One of the things we learn is that speech is what’s called an overlaid function. Our tongue and our velum are actually gesticulators as they’re designed to be able to eat. That’s why you see families when they have a baby, go from the bottle or liquids to mushy foods. You don’t just give a two-year-old a piece of steak necessarily. But the progression that we go through when we eat is what helps our articulators.”

The Problem with Sippy Cups

There’s a reason why certain sounds come in later. We lose teeth. So, you want to make sure your S sound is developed before you lose your front teeth. Otherwise, you’re going to end up having a lisp. When kids stay on the bottle too long or the sippy cup, which is in essence just the glorified bottle, they’re not developing the right oral motor behaviors that lead to more functional speech. People are now recommending to get rid of the bottle at age one because you want to make sure that you’re not behind the eight ball when you’re starting to develop speech.

Speech Problems in Toddlers

This is also true with pacifiers. A lot of people don’t think they can get rid of the pacifier because of severe problem behaviors. They basically plug up kids to keep them calm and not screaming, but at the same time they’re plugging up their kid who is becoming more and more speech delayed. Ever since that little piece of advice two decades ago that Dr. Gerenser gave me about spill-proof sippy cups, I became a big proponent of straw drinking, open cup drinking, and moving kids along. And not just for drinking but also for eating.

Eating Habits and Speech Articulation

I remember interviewing this mom once and I was trying to get the bottom of her child’s struggles and I had seen this kid eat crunchy foods. The mom said he’ll eat French Fries and corn chips and other foods like that. The white crunchy diet. I asked if he ate any fruits or vegetables or protein. She said only in the baby food. Her kid was 6 years old and the mom was very financially strapped. He was eating 52 jars a week of baby food.

Nobody’s going to ask, “is your child eating baby food?” She didn’t need people blaming her for not being able to feed her child real food,  but there’s so much involved with the oral motor system that I think it is important to know.  A child ability to chew and swallow mushy foods, crunchy foods, the E sound with the biting, it is all important. Behavior analysts don’t have all of the research to support this, but speech and language pathologists can help.

Dr. Gerenser on Sharing Information

Dr. Gerenser says, “we get to depend on each other to give us different information. There’s a tremendous amount of scientific evidence behind things like speech development and super segmental aspects of speech, lexical processing. There’s a very, very broad literature on that and it’s very scientific. We have to be able to have conversations so that we can decide what we want to include in our interventions. If we don’t, we just cut it out. I’ve been here now going on 38 years. The behavior analysis that I do today doesn’t look at all like what we did 38 years ago. We’re so much better and so much more advanced. You have to stay on top of things. It requires a dialogue.”

Helping Each Other With Speech Articulation

Dr. Gerenser has such a wide background and such a history with ABA and speech and language pathology. I hope that what she says here resonates with people because she has been leading the way and really trying to bridge this gap and make things better for kids with autism.

If you want more content on how to improve speech in autism, check out my podcast for more information. You can also attend a free online workshop or take my quiz to find the next steps.

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Transcript

Speech problems in children with or without autism can be affected by their feeding, their drinking and other oral motor habits. By adjusting some of these habits, you can get better speech development and articulation in many of your children and clients. Hi, I’m Dr. Mary Barbera, autism mom, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, online course creator, and bestselling author of The Verbal Behavior Approach. Each week I provide you with some of my ideas about turning autism around so if you haven’t subscribed to my YouTube channel, you can do that now. Today I’m sharing a small excerpt from a podcast episode with speech and language pathologist, Dr. Joanne Gerenser discussing ways we can help children with speech problems. You can check out the full podcast episode at marybarbera.com /41 or click the card on the screen now.

You came to present in Berks County, um, back in like 2000, 2001. Um, if I would have done the math earlier, I could have figured out the exact date, cause I remember Lucas was about four years of age and he is now 23. Um, and yeah. Yeah. And um, you came to present and I was going to take you out to dinner, so I thought I would bring you to my home and have you do like a, a quick 15 minute look at Lucas. Um, and uh, I remember taking you down the basement. He was running around and, and the one piece of advice I remember, I probably wouldn’t have even remembered you being in my house, but you said like get rid of the spill proof sippy cup and um, um, that was really key information. And um, because, and, and explain why you recommend that. Because I, I, I now really took that to heart. And you know, I, I’ve done video blogs on getting rid of bottles and pacifiers and spill proof sippy cups and, um, because a lot of our kids are, and I have video blogs on picky eating and, and bonus videos and all kinds of things because I do think that there’s a lot of similarities between eating, drinking, sucking problems and talking problems. Absolutely.

I mean, so this is an interesting concept because this is one of the discussions I have with behavior analysts. Um, you know, we as speech pathologists have taken entire courses on speech development or, and, and we don’t know, we don’t agree the time, but it’s a very scientific literature we have. And one of the things we learn is that speech is what’s called an overlaid function. Our, our, our tongue and our velum and those are actually gesticulators as they’re designed to eat, right? So that’s why you see, uh, families where they’re, when they have a baby, they go from the bottle or liquids to mushy foods. You don’t just give a, a two year old a piece of steak necessarily. Right? So, but the progression that we go through when we eat is what helps our articulators so that they be, they turned into articulators so that we’re able to do you know there’s a reason why certain sounds come in later.

We lose teeth. So you want to make sure your S sound is developed before you lose your front teeth. Otherwise you’re going to end up having a uh, lisp. Um, so anyhow, when you, when kids stay on the bottle too long or the the, the sippy cup, which is in essence just the glorified bottle, they’re not developing the right oral motor behaviors that lead to more functional speech. So I think it’s really important. It’s hard to get, but this is why, by the way, people are now recommending rid to the bottle at age one, right? Because you just want to make sure that you’re not behind the eight ball when you’re starting to develop speech

And also pacifiers, um, are a big thing and a lot of people can’t, don’t think they can get rid of the pacifier because of severe problem behaviors. Um, and they basically plug up kids to keep them calm and not screaming, but at the same time they’re plugging up their kid and who is becoming more and more speech delayed. And so I’m like a big proponent and Lucas took a pacifier, like, you know, really a lot. And but I didn’t know then, but now ever since that little piece of advice two decades ago that you gave me about spill proof sippy cups, that they were no bet the better than a bottle. I was like, Oh, okay. So now I’m a big proponent of straw drinking, open cup, drinking and moving kids along, not just for drinking but also for eating, you know, the mushy foods, the, the, the, you know, some kids will eat corn chips and Cheerios and that sort of thing.

I remember interviewing this mom once and, and I was trying to get the bottom of it. I had seen this kid eat crunchy foods. So I’m like, okay, how’s his eating? You know, and, and she’s like, well, he’ll eat French fries and corn chips and you know, the white, white crunchy diet. And I was like, okay, any fruits or vegetables, protein. She’s like, this kid was like six years of age. And she said only in the baby food. And she had just gotten done telling me like, she was, you know, very financially strapped and she, you know, the kid had tons of problems and I was like, Oh. And I was trying not to be like baby food for a six year old who can chew and swallow. But I was just like, oh, okay. Like how many jars of baby food? I’m thinking she’s like 52 jars a week.  Right, because he’s six.  But nobody’s going to ask that question. Is your child eating baby food? But, and I’m not saying, you know, she needed help. She didn’t need people blaming her for not being able to control her kid to feed him real food. But you know, chewing and swallowing mushy foods, crunchy foods, the E sound with the biting and the, you know, there’s just so much involved with the oral motor system that I think behavior analysts are like, well, you know, I don’t like this or that’s, that’s not evidence based or whatever. Um, and maybe it is and maybe,

right. Well, I mean, I, I, I would argue, which I love to do, um, is you, you, you aren’t looking at that evidence, right? See if you don’t have a dialogue with each other, you, I can’t read all the behavior analytic literature. You know, if I’m, if I’m, when I was in graduate school, I was reading all the speech language literature, so we can’t read each other’s extensive literature. We get to depend on each other to give us that information. So there’s a tremendous amount of scientific evidence behind things like speech development and, um, super segmental aspects of speech, lexical processing. There’s a very, very broad literature on that and it’s very scientific. But, um, we have to be able to have conversations so that we can decide what we want to include in our interventions. If we don’t, we just cut it out. If I don’t talk to the behavior analysts, I’m missing some really important information. You know, it’s interesting, right? Because you know, I’ve been here now going on 38 years. The behavior analysis that I do today doesn’t look at all like what we did 38 years ago. We’re so much better and so much more advanced. Um, and, and so you have to stay on top of things, you know, and again, it requires a dialogue.

Yeah. Which is just excellent that you have such a wide background and such a history with ABA and speech and language pathology. And I hope that, um, you know, what you’re saying here resonates with people because you have been, you know, leading the way and really trying to bridge this gap and make things better for kids with autism. So that is just, I thank you for your, your service to our field to help us. I hope you enjoyed this short snippet from the podcast. If you want more content, check out the podcast at marybarbera.com/podcast wherever you’re watching this, I’d love it if you would leave me a comment, give me a thumbs up, share this video with others who may benefit, and for more information, you can attend a free online workshop at marybarbera.com/workshop and I’ll see you right here next week.

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