Hot Topic Blog - Speech & Reading
A NON-TRADITIONAL APPROACH TO SPEECH-LANGUAGE INTERVENTION THROUGH YOGABy Amy Roberts, MS, CCC-SLP, 200RYT, and Kim Hughes, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologists in Maryland, USA
Talk Yoga - a new approach to your therapy sessions!
Expecting kids to sit nicely through a speech-language therapy session is often a challenge because kids are inherently built to move and explore their worlds as they learn. Have you ever wondered how you might intentionally harness children’s exuberant energy to enhance your therapy sessions?
While working in a school dedicated to serving children with language and learning disabilities, we often co-treated with OTs and PTs. We saw first-hand that movement was a catalyst to improve speech and language skills. We had an epiphany! We needed to combine the therapy tools we used daily with the movement we love dearly--yoga.
As we tested out our theory, it became quite apparent that the practice of yoga provided a unique treatment for a variety of speech and language disorders. Combining yoga and play with teaching speech and language developmental milestones ended the paradigm of traditional therapy in our treatment.
Research suggests that movement (involving vestibular, tactile, and proprioceptive stimulation) activates cognitive abilities and enhances opportunities for novel, spontaneous language! Yoga engages the most basic child-centric learning style, tactile/kinesthetic learning, thus engaging the whole child. In children, gross motor skills develop first and then fine motor skills. Speech is a fine motor skill, along with eating, drinking, as well as vision and hand use. Play develops the coordination and strength needed to support respiration and phonation. These are foundations for speech and language development.
The Talk Yoga Program - express, play, and learn!
The Talk Yoga program was designed to provide children and therapists with a way to address speech and language skills in a nontraditional way. Talk Yoga is just like it sounds. We actually talk while doing yoga. Talk Yoga articulation poses match the movement of the articulators, create muscle memory, and physically active ways to practice speech sounds. Talk Yoga articulation poses, flows, and games also target expressive language skills such as vocabulary and mean length of utterance (MLU), as well as receptive language skills such as following directions.
Research and Anecdotal Evidence.
Anecdotal data, collected over three years, indicated many areas of improvement in the children using Talk Yoga techniques in individual sessions and classroom settings. These included enhanced self-confidence, ability to maintain focus, memory, placement and production of speech sounds, and overall receptive and expressive language skills.
One of our favorite success stories is about Matthew--a sweet and energetic boy who literally never stopped moving. When he was four-years-old, his parents were concerned about his articulation development. After several weeks of therapy, the traditional therapy plan was thrown out of the window. Matthew needed to move. Enter - Talk Yoga! Bring in the yoga mat, and say good-bye to the sticker charts. Breathing techniques were practiced throughout each session. Matthew loved the poses, shared them with his family, and eventually, these poses became a part of his bedtime routine. His focus and self-regulation in therapy gradually improved. This resulted in a calmer state, which then resulted in more receptivity to learning. His parents and other family members began remarking that his speech was easier to understand.
William is another example of Talk Yoga success! When he began attending Talk Yoga classes, he presented with severe articulation errors as well as delays in expressive language. Initially, the poses and other physical exercises were challenging for William. After three months of Talk Yoga classes, William’s pediatrician remarked that she noticed an incredible change in his speech and language. William’s confidence had also improved. His overall strength and coordination increased. He needed fewer cues for speech sound and language production. He became a class leader and taught other children poses. Combining speech-language therapy and yoga was a recipe for success.
What comes next?
Speech-language therapy in isolation is an effective intervention for improving speech and language skills. Yoga in isolation is effective for improving focus, breathing, core/postural development and control, as well as self-regulation. Combining speech-language therapy with the movement of yoga is doubly powerful. Give it a try. No more stressing about the copies you forgot to make or the tokens you forgot to grab from your drawer. Grab a yoga mat (or not!). Sit on the floor with your clients and get ready to have a blast making some noise while talking and practicing yoga.
Resources We Found Useful in Developing our Program
Cooper, C. (2010, August 18-24). A calming influence. Nursing Standard 24, 24-25.
Desikachar, T. K. V. (1999). The heart of yoga: Developing a personal practice. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Kenny, M. (2002). Integrated movement therapy: Yoga-Based therapy as a viable and effective intervention for Autism Spectrum and related disorders. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 12, 71.
Paul, R. (2007). Language disorders from infancy through adolescence: Assessment & intervention (Vol. 324). USA: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Radhakrishna, S., Nagarathna, R. & Nagendra, H. (2010, April). Integrated approach to yoga therapy and autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 2, 120-124.
Satchidananda, S. S. (2012). Yoga sutras of Patanjali (Revised ed.). Buckingham, Virginia: Integral Yoga Publications.
Suman, R. (2000, July-August). Yoga and speech-language therapy. Yoga Chicago Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.yogachicago.com/jul00/yogaandspeech.shtml
About the Authors
Kim is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist with 16 years of experience working with children, teenagers, and adults. She received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology at The George Washington University in 2000. Her passion is treating children with language disorders, ADHD, ASD, and Dyslexia. She has seen great therapeutic benefits for her students by incorporating movement, play, yoga, and sensory activities into her therapy sessions. Kim has been practicing yoga for 20 years and is certified as a children’s yoga teacher through the Budding Yogis program. A mother of two preteens, Kim began teaching them yoga in the womb and has continued bonding with them by getting into silly or challenging yoga poses and listening to nature and animal meditations together. She is grateful to have the opportunity through Talk Yoga to help strengthen communication and connection among parents and their children. She believes yoga can build self-esteem, strength, and inner beauty. When Kim isn’t doing yoga, you can find her in the garden or walking in the woods. She lives in Kensington, Maryland, with her husband, two children, and dog, Mojo.
Amy is an ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist with over 10 years of experience in the field. She received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Therapy at the University of Utah in 2004. Her passion is treating children with articulation disorders, and she has loves incorporating yoga concepts such as pranayama and asana practice into her therapy sessions. She has been practicing yoga since her early college years and recently received her 200 hour training certification from Yoga District in Washington D.C. As a mother of three and wife of an Army Ophthalmologist, yoga has kept her grounded and at peace in her ever changing life. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to share her love of yoga with children and families and her desire to help children understand the power of communication. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband and three children.