Early development & VoiceGym
Balance on Two Feet:
We get up on two feet as the result of a series of early reflexes. As part of the process we crawl on all fours and this strengthens the back so that when we stand up, we stand up straight and evenly on two feet. The larynx - sluice gate for the breath and maker of the vocal sound - has to descend from its infant position behind the mouth to its adult and most efficient position low in the throat between years 2 and 6 years old.
Mixed dentition (baby teeth falling out, adult teeth developing) occurs around 6 years at the same time as the stabilizing of the larynx. A check from a dentist aware of whole body development in relation to the teeth would ensure the eventual possible development of total potential in this individual.
If a child sucks its thumb for too long it can reshape the roof of the mouth, encouraging it to grow highly arched and narrow (a bit like a gothic church roof). This can develop into 'tongue thrust', where the tongue falls permanently against the front teeth and is no longer instrumental in developing the upper arch of the mouth. When the second teeth come through there may then be insufficient room for all of them, so they crowd.
The received dental wisdom is that healthy teeth should be extracted when this occurs. Braces are then fitted to close any gaps and, by fifteen or sixteen, the young person has a beautiful smile (cosmetic orthodontics), but a narrowed facial bone structure (a narrow, long face). It is Angela's experience that this orthodontic procedure limits potential and confidence in performance of athletics and music.
One only has to see pictures of top International athletes, tennis players, golfers, skiers, to realize that they have very wide mouths.They smile easily and show lots of big white teeth. The early years are critical to this good development.
In an education system where less and less time is spent singing, drawing and exploring the rhythms and images of poetry, while more and more time is spent sitting: in school, at computers, in front of the TV, in cars, waiting to be collected, waiting for public transport, waiting for that lift home from a place you could very easily walk home from but that is no longer permitted, children are missing out on good early development.
Meanwhile, the world is increasingly noisy and larger than life at a time when the speed and measure of life is just the thing a young child is trying to assimilate. Entertainment removes all need for imagination as the most bizarre juxtaposing of events and creatures, both from life and beyond, are 'made flesh' by the magic of special effects.
Add a world of technically produced music and junk food and you have just about removed the means to every natural area of child development.
Helping to Develop a Beautiful Smile:
This is a picture of good facial development with a wide roof to the mouth. Not everyone develops this: it can be prevented by long term thumbsucking. As the child sucks the face muscles pull forward pressing the bones of the face inwards, creating a high 'gothic arch' in the roof of the mouth instead of a wide, gentle curve.
Eventually the tongue no longer fits into the roof of the mouth, where it should rest and the development of the face is impaired. This has a detremental effect on breathing through the nose (see Early VoiceGym Notebook). It can also lead to blocked eustachian tubes and the onset of glue ear. Face muscles that focus strength on sucking cause the face to grow in length rather than in width and the jaw is driven back into the TMJ (the joint between jaw and skull).
This child will not only develop a long, expressionless face with breathing and TMJ problems, it will not develop good vocal skills. The voice will be dull and flat and singing is unlikely to be enjoyed, it may even not develop at all. There have been many attempts to develop a dental appliance or an exercise system that repostions the tongue for natural resting position and nosebreathing but none of these has so far been successful.
They do not take into account that all intrinsic muscles of the tongue are involuntary and reprogrammed only through the imagination. Early VoiceGym, with its emphasis on play, singing and rhythm can guarantee to do the job if the parent does the exercises with the child.
Tongue Resting Position and face mucle balance:
The long term result of tongue thrust in children leaves adults with the tongue lying in the floor of the mouth.This is not a natural resting position, and it can lead to difficulties with articulation, making communication uncomfortable and limiting the range of the singing voice. Angela's experience and research points to this as being a major cause of voice loss.
Early VoiceGym is designed to correct tongue position and rebalance face muscles in favour of the tongue being suspended in the palate. Arch width is maintained by the tongue articulating against the palate, thus stimulating bone development. A tongue resting with two thirds in the pharynx and one third in the mouth (its natural resting position) also ensures the naturally low position of the larynx and freedom of the voice to sing and speak across its whole range.
Muscle balance and tongue position developed and maintained throughout orthodontic treatment with VoiceGym. If the palate is underdeveloped however, it may be necessary to coordinate VoiceGym exercises with functional orthodontics from a voice aware dentist to restore the width of the arch.
There is a growing number of dentists who have adopted a more functional approach to problems of dental development in children. They practice early functional orthodontics. When there is insufficient development, the roof of the mouth is widened by fitting light wire functional appliances inside the space.
No teeth are later extracted as the resulting space can accommodate all the adult teeth that nature provided. Result - a big wide smile and good efficient breathing. Information on early orthodontics is included in the Early Voice Gym and in VoiceGym Book: Get to know your Voice.
VoiceGym and Early VoiceGym assist orthodontic treatment by maintaining good face muscle balance and tongue position. Voice Gym exercises ensure that correction is not prevented by tension in the tongue and cheek muscles or an unnaturally high larynx. All the exercises use the voice in speech and singing to strengthen the muscle system of the face and tongue to promote efficient breathing and a wide smile.
Comments from parents working on Early VoiceGym with their children:
"She has had a fantastic time and has learned so much - things she will take and use throughout her life."
"We've both had a great time and learned a lot."
"I know she has benefited from this experience, which will be with her forever."
Muscle balance and tongue position developed and maintained throughout orthodontic treatment with
the VoiceGym programme.
The Early VoiceGym exercise
book and audio CD provides
the exercise materials needed
for the development and maintenance of a child's
singing or speaking voice.