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  • Writer's pictureCAFF Team


Episode 70 of the Airway First podcast is now out! You can catch this and all other episodes on Apple, SoundCloud, Podbean, RSS, Spotify, iHeart Radio, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And don't forget to check us out on YouTube!

Airway First podcast, airway and sleep disorders, Dr Mark Levi

My guest today is Kelley Rubio, an Arizona native and US Army veteran with a heartfelt commitment to pediatric care since 1996. Her practice has two locations in the Phoenix Valley and she works with patients in person and via Telehealth. As a licensed dental hygienist, she specializes in myofunctional therapy and is a Certified Buteyko Breathing Practitioner.

Kelley stays at the forefront of her field through ongoing training, holding a Qualification in Orofacial Myology. What sets Kelley apart is not just her expertise but also the genuine connections she forms with each patient. Her passion for orofacial myology is driven by the meaningful relationships she builds.

You can find out more about Kelley at

Show Notes:

What is The Buteyko Breathing Method?

Buteyko Breathing is a method of breathing education that focuses on breathing slower and breathing lighter for health benefits. You might have heard the phrase “The mouth is for eating, the nose is for breathing.” We reinforce this principle, that the nose should always be used for breathing.

When you learn how to breathe slowly, and calmly through the nose, then you are:

  • Cleaning the air before it enters the lungs

  • Moisturizing the air 

  • Keeping your brain calm, not in fight or flight

  • Making sure more oxygen is dispersed to the tissues

  • Managing asthma symptoms

  • Managing allergies

  • Improving sleep quality

  • Supporting dental and facial growth

  • Improving overall body health and wellness


The connection between a lack of oxygen and mental health in children might not be entirely intuitive for most of us. However, according to a study published by the National Library of Medicine children experiencing long-term childhood airway disorders, such as those with airway dysfunction or sleep apnea, are more likely to experience poor mental well-being or mental health conditions:

  • they will have lower IQs which impacts performance, focus, and self-esteem

  • they have a hard time playing and doing things other children do which impacts their self-esteem and ability to fit in

  • they deal with the fear of not being able to get enough air when playing or doing things other children do

  • they have higher levels of frustration, anger, and anxiety

  • they are often misdiagnosed as having ADHD

  • they experience higher rates of self-loathing, depression, and suicidal thoughts

  • they often have lower self-control and experience bouts of impaired thinking and judgment, personality changes, and memory loss

Mental health plays an important role in a child's overall health. Mental disorders are chronic health conditions that can last for a long time and don't always go away. It is possible for children with mental disorders to have problems at home, at school, and in forming friendships without early diagnosis and treatment. In addition, mental disorders can interfere with a child's healthy development, causing problems that can last into adulthood.

A child who suffers oxygen deprivation and a brain injury often has increased mental health needs due to anxiety and fear. Additionally, other developmental disabilities, learning delays, and cognitive concerns may contribute to the child's difficulties adjusting to life.

According to the US Surgeon General, anxiety disorders, such as those caused by airway dysfunction and sleep issues, are the most common mental health disorders in adolescents. At any given time, one in eight adolescents meets the clinical criteria for an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders in children include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

A child struggling with mental issues as a result of an airway disorder will exhibit the following signs:

  • Detachment

  • Unresponsiveness or resistance to comforting

  • Excessive inhibition (holding back emotions)

  • Social withdrawal or a sudden tendency to keep to themselves

  • Failure to seek affection from caregivers and other people

  • Crankiness or anger

  • Continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness

  • Being more sensitive to rejection

  • Changes in appetite, either increased or decreased

  • Changes in sleep (sleeplessness or excessive sleep)

  • Vocal outbursts or crying

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Fatigue and low energy

To help a child suffering from depression, anxiety, or autism, teach them the words to use to help to express themselves and allow them to name their emotions when they happen. Make notes of what your child expresses in your journal so you can share it with their physician.


Education is the first step for any parent who might be concerned about their child's mental and physical health.

The Children's Airway First Foundation Resource library has information that can aid in identifying symptoms and providing guidance on the first steps towards helping your child with an airway disorder.

CAFF Resource Library

As with any medical condition, consult your child's pediatrician should you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you suspect your child is suffering from an airway disorder.

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