Ask A Therapist: “Fixing” During Horn Hierarchy Exercises

I use the horn hierarchy and really love the results. One of my clients, a young girl, tenses her muscles – shoulder, stomach, facial, etc, to blow and make the appropriate sound for appropriate duration. How do I stop this compensation?

The client is “fixing” – using a compensatory pattern that lets the SLP know the client does not have adequate grading skills in her abdominal muscles. Without seeing the child, there are several possibilities based on the description above:

1. The horn is too difficult for the client. Go back to the previous horn on the hierarchy.

2. The horn is not too difficult, but she does not understand how to use duration of oral airflow without clavicular breathing. In this situation, use the Duration Tube Kit to teach her duration using abdominal grading.

3. Fixing could be a habit the client has developed. Use an easier horn on the hierarchy. Explain to the client she should blow the horn while keeping her shoulders down. Once she understands the feel of the “acceptable” body posture, begin progressing through the hierarchy.

4. Tactile cueing during the exercise may help. Push down on the client’s shoulders as she is blowing — the tactile pressure inhibiting her compensatory posturing may help her understand “acceptable” body posture.

5. The client’s jaw is weak and she cannot perform the jaw from lip dissociation movement needed to blow the horn. In this case, stop the Horn Blowing Hierarchy and work on jaw stability. Each week, retry the horns to see if improved jaw skills enable the client to blow the horn without the compensatory postures.

The Horn Hierarchy is a small part of the TalkTools offerings to improve speech clarity. See our website for more information on live workshops in your area or Educational self-study courses (we offer continuing education credits for workshops and self-study courses), and learn about other TalkTools therapy techniques.

Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson

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