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Breath Control when Oral Reading - Dyslexia

Submitted by an LD OnLine user on

I work with a dyslexic student who becomes very OUT OF BREATH when reading aloud. This causes her to rush through sounding out words, or to not sound them out at all. I am rather clueless as to help her breathe through her oral reading- I’ve never encountered this issue before. (This student does not qualify for speech therapy in-school.)
[Modified by: Natalielp on December 29, 2015 03:23 PM]

Submitted by eoffg on Wed, 12/30/2015 - 11:52 AM


Hi Natalielp, and welcome to the forum,

Quite likely, this student is what is termed as a ‘shoulder breather’?
To identify this, you could simply ask them to ‘take a deep breathe’, and observe them as they do it?
What you would look for, is their shoulders raising as they breathe in.

But first you try taking a deep breathe yourself, and observe how you do this?
Where most likely, your lower chest and upper ‘belly ’ expands, and is filled with air.
Which is termed as ‘belly breathing’.

Perhaps you could then try to just breathe into your shoulders?
Where you will find that you can only take a small breathe, as it soon fills up.
As it only expands slightly. Raising the shoulders adds a little more space. But only a little.

So that you might be able to appreciate, how you would quickly run out of air. If you only breathe into your shoulders?
Another way that you could test this?
Is to put a belt on, but place it around your lower chest/rib-cage. Not overly tight, but just tight enough to stop the area expanding, as you take a breathe.
Which can force you to breathe into your shoulders.
If you tried reading aloud, with the belt on?
You will probably find that you soon run out of air?

How this could cause your student to ‘become very out of breathe when reading aloud’.
Though shoulder breathing can simply be the result of a child having the flu. Which causes major congestion of the lower lungs. So that they start breathing into the shoulders to cope with this congestion.
But the problem can be, that after the congestion has gone.
That this shoulder breathing has become normal for them, and they continue to breathe this way.
But they are usually unaware of this?
A similar example of this, has been identified with many people
recovering from a broken leg?
Where to cope with the broken leg, they will ‘limp’ as they walk.
Then after the broken leg has healed?
They continue to ‘limp’, as this has become their normal way of walking.
So that they have to ‘unlearn’ the limp.

Where ‘shoulder breathing’ can become normal in a similar way?
Which then has to be ‘unlearned’.
That basically involves becoming aware that they are only shoulder breathing, and that they can also belly breathe.

Though I was adviser to research conducted in ‘shoulder breathing’, with a medical school.
So that I have a particular interest in this subject, and continue to do qualitative studies into it.
Where perhaps you could help your student to explore why they ‘become out breathe when reading aloud’?

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