Tension in the neck, shoulder, and clavicle areas can cause undue strain on the vocal cords and can hinder the ability to "Belly-Breathe" or breathe from the diaphragm. This can hinder production of certain sounds, can cause laryngeal tension leading to voice problems and can impede easy onset of speech for fluency. Using relaxation exercises may have a positive effect on the above areas. It also can ease general tension and anxiety, which impacts on a person's ability to be successful in social situations. When a person is feeling more relaxed, there is one less barrier to social interaction. Below are a few exercises that have been very effective during speech therapy sessions to improve relaxation of the neck/shoulders/clavicle, as well as overall emotional relaxation.
Bunny Breathing - http://www.gooddaygoldfish.com/blog/tag/diaphragmatic-breathing
Belly-breathing Diagram - www.spiritualgarden.net
Belly Breathing Exercises
When I ask students to take a deep breath, I often observe a tightening of the neck muscles and note their shoulders raising and their chests expanding. This type of breathing, sometimes referred to as "clavicular breathing," results in shallower breaths. Coupled with the muscular tension (described under Relaxation Exercises) this type of breathing may contribute to reduced sentence length, articulation deficits (particularly for continuant sounds), undue stress on the vocal cords, and a reduction in fluency. When working with these speech and language issues, teaching belly-breathing becomes part of the therapy process.When Belly Breathing, the shoulders should not go up and down. The diaphragm and stomach muscles should be the only muscles engaged, besides the oral muscles. Have your child put one hand on the top of the belly, right under the “V” that is formed by the ribs. Ask your child to take a deep breath. Their shoulders should stay fairly still and their belly should round slightly under their hand as the air comes in. Improving the volume and the grading of respiration can assist children in better production of continuant sounds (s,z,sh, ch, f). With insufficient air-flow, children sometimes drop these sounds or substitute them with a /d/ or a /t/. This also can assist in providing longer, sustained airflow to support longer or louder sentences, which include the articles (a, an, the) and short words (is, are) that some children may omit.
Below are some exercises to help improve a child's ability to sustain air flow. Additionally, blowing exercises promote tongue retraction, lip-rounding, and cheek strength, which is important for various phonemes.