Hypernasality speech is common amongst children with a cleft palate and some cases of cerebral palsy. It is a situation in which too much air escapes through the nose during speaking. Certain letters should not have air escaping during pronunciation, such as vowels or the letters “k” and “b.” A palate that is too short, or the inability to move muscles for the sake of closure, will create hypernasality speech.
A diagnosis is often needed for successful therapy, and often required by school or state. The evaluation often looks for abnormalities in the mouth and listens to airflow during speech. It is important to note that a velopharyngeal insufficiency often does not respond well to speech therapy and could result in lower self-esteem of the child. Once you have a diagnosis, trying different techniques will be next on your to-do list.
Here are a few techniques that your speech therapist will try. Bear in mind that speech therapy does not change hypernasality, since it’s based on the structure of the mouth and nasal cavity. These are just a few ways to help a child learn to speak with the equipment they have.
- Biofeedback – Giving the child feedback if air is coming out when it shouldn’t. Allows the child to learn to control their own airflow. Quite often, this task utilizes a mirror.
- Altering the tongue – Moving the location of the tongue can help with airflow. The goal here is to achieve lower posterior movement.
- Oral versus nasal production – This technique teaches the child how to identify one with the other. Once they know which is happening, they can learn to control it.
- Stimulability probe – Teaching the child how to imitate oral resonance.
- Open mouth – Teaches the child to open their mouth a bit wider while speaking and allowing for more airflow control.
- Auditory feedback – Like the oral versus nasal production, this also teaches them how to identify it in other people as well.
- Change in volume/pitch – Helps the child find a volume or pitch that is less nasally.
- Focus on the facial mask – Guides the child to focus and pay attention to the facial area. This leads them to a better sense of control over how they are speaking.
Remember that for the above to work, a child should be able to show signs of a minimal ability to control some airflow or movement in the mouth and nasal area.
While many cases of hypernasality are curable through physical therapy and surgical means, speech therapy is the easiest in assisting a child to speak clearly and efficiently. Not all children will be able to cure their hypernasality and must focus on speech therapy. What really matters is allowing the child to explore speech and build their self-esteem through their successes.