Lip Closure & Rounding Exercises

Lip closure (also known as lip seal) is the ability to close one’s lips around a spoon, straw, cup, etc.  It’s also important in order to say certain speech sounds, such as /p/b/m/, and it’s a factor in preventing drooling.

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Lip Closure & Rounding Oral Motor Practice

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Recently I was working with a 9-year-old child who has Angelman syndrome.  The mother was asking if there was anything she could do to decrease drooling. One of the first things I look for with drooling is whether or not the child has lip closure.  The child was not closing her lips and could not do so on command, so I touched the Z-Vibe to her lips for about 2-3 seconds, and voila – immediately her lips closed.  I waited a few minutes and repeated the stimulation, and she closed her lips again.  She just needed that extra sensory input to be aware of her lips to close them.

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Sometimes a simple prompt like that will elicit lip closure.  Other times you may need to do extra practice until the concept “sticks,” or until they have the oral motor skill to do it.  It really just depends on the child. Continue reading Lip Closure & Rounding Exercises

The Oral Motor Benefits of Straws

Whenever a parent asks me what they can do to improve their child’s oral motor skills, one of my first questions is usually:  Are they drinking from straws?
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Drinking from a straw is a very simple yet effective way of improving one’s oral motor skills.  It works on lip seal, tongue retraction, cheek strength, correct jaw position, suck-swallow-breathe coordination, consecutive swallows, and more.  Sucking can also help some individuals organize, increase their attention, and soothe/calm themselves.
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Straw drinking usually starts around 8-10 months of age.  An easy way to teach beginners is with the Bear Bottle Kit, which has a special valve that keeps liquids at the top of the straw (so only a small amount of effort is required to drink).  Or, older kids may prefer the Cip-Kup, which functions the same way but has a more ‘grown-up’ design.  For more information on how to teach straw drinking, click here.
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Continue reading The Oral Motor Benefits of Straws

Assisting Lip Closure

Teaching the concept of lip closure.

Just like its namesake, lip closure (also known as lip seal) is the ability to close one’s lips.  It’s important for several different speech/feeding/oral motor skills:
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•  Being able to close one’s lips around a straw, spoon, a piece of food, etc.

•  Being able to pronounce the speech sounds /p/, /b/, and /m/

•  Being able to chew food with one’s lips closed so that food stays inside the mouth (and also for good table manners – I’m not concerned with table manners in feeding therapy, just getting the child to eat well, but post-therapy it could be a goal for the parents)

•  To prevent drooling (poor lip closure can be one reason why some children drool)

•  Correct oral resting posture – lips are closed when our mouth is at rest (when we’re not eating, drinking, or speaking)

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So, how do we work on improving lip closure?  There are several different ways (I’ll link out to more at the bottom of this post).  Specifically here I’m going to show you a simple trick on how to use the Y-Chew to assist lip closure:
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Continue reading Assisting Lip Closure

Oral Motor Exercises with the Z-Vibe

What is oral motor therapy?

Oral motor therapy works on the oral skills necessary for proper speech and feeding development.  For example, try saying “la la la” right now, paying attention to what your tongue is doing.  In order to produce the /l/ sound, the tongue tip must elevate to the alveolar ridge (just behind the upper front teeth).  It must also be able to function independently – or dissociate – from the jaw.  Oral motor therapy works on these “pre-requisites” for speech and feeding.
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Why is oral motor therapy important?

Think about yoga.  In order to get a pose right, several muscle groups must be working together in a delicate balance of strength, coordination, movement, and endurance.  Speech and feeding are very much the same, only localized to the muscles of the lips, tongue, jaw, and cheeks.  In order to properly articulate sounds and manage food, the mouth muscles need to be in very specific “poses.”   For example, try drinking from a straw right now and pay attention to what your mouth is doing – your lips should be pursed and closed around the straw, the tongue tense and retracted, and the cheeks taut.  Most people naturally learn how to do this on their own.  But some individuals (particularly those with developmental delays) need oral motor therapy to learn those skills.
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Where does the Z-Vibe come in?

Most people are either visual or auditory learners.  Sometimes, however, these two senses are not enough, and we must look to the sense of touch.  Imagine you’re in a yoga class again.  You’ve heard the instructor explain a pose, you’ve seen her demonstrate it, but it’s just not clicking for you.  So the instructor comes over and adjusts your arm into in the right position.  Similarly, sometimes you need to physically show an individual where the tongue should go for this sound, that skill, etc.  This is called giving them a tactile cue.  The Z-Vibe is a tool to help you provide targeted tactile cues within the oral cavity without getting your fingers in harm’s way.  It also takes tactile learning to the next level with the added bonus of vibration.  The gentle vibration of the Z-Vibe provides added sensory stimulation to increase oral focus and draw more attention to the articulators.
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. Continue reading Oral Motor Exercises with the Z-Vibe