Oral motor therapy works on the oral skills necessary for proper speech and feeding development. These skills include: awareness, strength, coordination, movement, and endurance of the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw. The activities below are an easy way to work on these skills. Incorporate them into your daily routine whenever you have time. Practice them on the way to school/work, during commercials, while you’re making dinner, etc. Make it a game and have fun! Please note, however, that these exercises should not replace therapeutic intervention. It is best to see a speech-language pathologist and/or occupational therapist trained in oral motor therapy. They will be able to assess the situation, prescribe a course of action, and guide you through the process.
• Use the Z-Vibe to normalize sensation within the oral cavity. Hyposensitive individuals (with low oral tone) have little to no awareness of what’s going on inside their mouths. On the other hand, hypersensitive individuals (with oral defensiveness) are overly sensitive and often experience aversions to texture, temperature, taste, etc. Both cases can significantly affect speech and feeding development.
• The tip attachments for the Z-Vibe come in various shapes, textures, and scents. Use them to stroke and apply gentle pressure to the lips, cheeks (both inside and out), and the tongue. Vary the pressure, the direction of the strokes, the length of the pressure, etc. For hypersensitivities, introduce the Z-Vibe gradually.
• Gum massage is also a simple and effective way to provide oral stimulation.
FOR THE LIPS:
• Say “ooo” with exaggerated lip movement. Then say “eee.” Combine them for “oo-ee.” Really round the lips.
• Say “puh” and pop the sound with emphasis.
• Make a big smile. Relax and repeat.
• Puff out the cheeks while keeping the lips sealed. Relax and repeat. Puff out one cheek, then the other, then both. Then puff out the upper lip followed by the lower lip (or vice versa). Relax and repeat.
• Purse the lips to make a kiss. Slide the kiss to the right and then to the left or vice versa.
• Blow bubbles. You can also blow whistles, horns, kazoos, etc.
• Drink through a straw rather than drinking from a cup. This is also a great activity for the tongue and cheeks. Drinking from a straw requires a lot of oral motor work: the cheeks tighten, the tongue tightens and retracts, and the lips purse. For tips on how to teach straw drinking, click here.
• In the above exercises, observe to see if the lips are symmetrical. If not, document what they look like and compare them to future practice sessions to monitor progress.
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