Heather Clark
General Session #3


Motor Learning and Neuromuscular Principles: Applications to Myofunctional Disorders – Heather Clark

The aerodigestive tract is a complex mechanism that, in addition to life-sustaining functions, serves as the foundation for spoken communication. The orofacial musculoskeletal system supporting facial expression further contributes to nonverbal aspects of communication. Myofunctional disorders negatively impact these important functions and can contribute to reduced participation and quality of life. Myofunctional therapies aim to alter the resting position of structures in the aerodigestive tract and to optimize movement patterns for speech, deglutition, and facial expression. This session will review key principles guiding neuromuscular and movement-focused therapies. Principles of motor learning will also be reviewed. The information presented will help clinicians consider the rationale for specific treatment approaches and offer a framework for innovation of new techniques.

Dr. Heather Clark is Chair of the Division of Speech Pathology in the Department of Neurology and Associate Professor of Speech Pathology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Her clinical responsibilities include differential diagnosis and treatment of communication and swallowing disorders in adults and children. Her research has included exploration of assessment and treatment methods targeting neuromuscular and motor planning impairments accompanying apraxia of speech, dysarthria, and dysphagia.

Learning Outcomes:

– Describe the unique features of the speech/swallowing mechanism that inform intervention targets and methods.
– Discuss principles of neuromuscular treatment and of motor learning that inform intervention.
– Identify resources for evidence-based practice.


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