Sometimes children have difficulty in speaking. There could be many possible causes, one of which is a condition called tongue-tie or ankyloglossia. This condition is caused by a physical defect in the tongue.
What is tongue-tie
There is a cord of tissue that extends
from the mid-portion of the floor of the mouth to the midline of the inferior
surface of the tongue blade. This is known as the lingual frenulum in medical
terminology. This tissue is considered important for speech as it is assumed
to give mobility to the tongue. Tongue-tie or ankyloglossia refers to a
condition where this tissue is short, thereby restricting the mobility
of the tongue. The tongue should be able to make a range of movements in
all directions for the articulation of a number of sounds, particularly
- l, r, t, d, n, th, sh, and z. These sounds are likely to be defective
in a child with tongue-tie.
Testing for tongue-tie
Parents can do a little test at home
to determine whether their child who has difficulty speaking has got tongue-tie.
They could either make their child imitate them or stick a sticky chocolate
on both the upper lip and lower lip and watch his natural reflex as he
tries to lick off the chocolate. If they suspect that their child may have
tongue-tie, it would be advisable to consult a specialist in person.
Does tongue-tie necessarily affect speech
The tongue is known to have tremendous
compensatory ability. Speech therapists have observed that many children
with the medical condition of tongue-tie do not have any speech problems.
This is because often tongue-tie does not affect the range of tongue movements
significantly and the child learns to compensate either naturally or with
the help of a speech pathologist. If a child can protrude his tongue beyond
the lower lip and elevate his tongue to touch the upper lip with his mouth
half open, the likelihood of the child experiencing a speech difficulty
is quite low. The ability to compensate varies from child to child.
Does tongue-tie require surgery
Surgical intervention is considered
only if an ENT surgeon along with the speech pathologist indicates that
it is necessary after a clinical evaluation. Often, a trial period of speech
therapy can be considered before going in for surgery. The surgical procedure
to correct this condition is extremely simple. If the child is co-operative,
it could even be done under local anaesthesia. Therefore, mothers need
not be overly concerned if this condition is the sole cause for the child's
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