Tongue Tip Elevation Exercises

Tongue tip elevation is the ability to lift the tip of one’s tongue up to the alveolar ridge (the spot just behind the upper front teeth).  As a shorthand, we often call this location “on spot,” as in, “get your tongue tip on spot!”

 

Tongue tip elevation is an oral motor skill necessary to say certain speech sounds (t, d, n, l, s, and z).  It’s also where the tongue should rest during normal oral resting posture (when you’re not eating or speaking).

 

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75+ Feeding Therapy Tips & Strategies

For any therapist seeking to specialize in feeding, the best piece of advice I could give you is to become a sponge.  Take courses and workshops, read as many articles as you can, talk to and learn from your colleagues, join special interest groups on Facebook and ASHA etc., follow blogs, observe other therapy sessions, and don’t forget – learn from the children you treat as well.  They will be your best teachers.

 

Feeding issues are complex.  So take in as much information as you can from as many outlets as you can.  But, take it all in with a grain of salt, because not every strategy will work for every child.  Over the past 35 plus years, a number of people have told me that their way was the only way.  Although that certainly would have made my job easier if it were true, I’ve never been able to use any one method “by the book.”  Each child is different, so it will be up to you to evaluate their needs and cater treatment accordingly.

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Straw Drinking Prerequisite – Tongue & Jaw Dissociation

Question:  I’m working with a client who has Down syndrome.  She can’t differentiate her tongue from her bottom lip when drinking from a straw.  I’ve tried having her drink from a straw using a Lip block to see if that helps, but the tongue still just takes over everything.  Any ideas?
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I always recommend getting children on straws (ideally with Lip Bloks) for their oral motor benefit.  The straw + Lip Blok combination can help naturally exercise and fine tune oral motor skills / oral positioning.

 

However, some skills / prerequisites have to be in place first before the child can effectively drink from a straw, such as trunk control, suck-swallow-breathe coordination, tongue and jaw dissociation, etc.  You have to walk before you run so to speak (and you have to have a certain amount of strength, coordination, etc. before you can do either).  Most children start straw drinking around 8-10 months old.  So if she’s not at that age level developmentally yet, she may need time and/or your help to get there.

Continue reading Straw Drinking Prerequisite – Tongue & Jaw Dissociation

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

Do Chew Tools Increase the Need to Chew?

Question:  My son has ADHD and Anxiety, he spends a lot of time chewing/sucking on clothes, plastic, and other non- edible items. Would your chewies encourage this sensory seeking behavior or will it help him to eventually not need to mouth everything?   My son is 7 years old.  Thank you!
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Do Chew Tools Increase the Sensory Need to Chew?

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Great question.  Although each child is different, having a chew tool typically doesn’t increase the need to chew.  Especially if the chewing is sensory-related, he’s going to have a need to chew whether or not he has a safe outlet to do so.  Using a chew tool just means that he’ll be able to safely and more comfortably meet that need (as opposed to chewing on his fingers, shirts, pencils, etc.).
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Chewing actually has many benefits, and it usually serves an important purpose.  When you’re thirsty, your body tells you to take a drink.  When you’re tired, your body signals that you need sleep.  Similarly, when some kids need to focus, organize, or calm themselves, their body urges them to chew.
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For more background on why some kids need to chew, click here.  And for a list of all of the chew tools we make, click here.  All options are made in the USA (woohoo!) and come in 3 different toughness levels.  As long as he’s not chewing through things or causing any damage to what he’s chewing/sucking on, it sounds like any of our softest chews would be a good fit for him.
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Some kids always have a need to chew.  Others grow out of it.  For some it ebbs and flows – they might go for weeks or months without needing to chew, and then it comes back again and so forth.  Often this is tied to stress (it’s common to see chewing increase during stressful situations like the back to school transition, holidays, if there’s been a lot of change in their life, etc.).  In my experience, for many kids the need to chew decreases over time, especially if they have other calming / sensory strategies in place, which you can learn more about here.
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I hope some of this helps!
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All my best,
Debbie

Isolating Back of Tongue Elevation for K, G, and Y

For the K, G, and Y sounds, the back of the tongue elevates to the palate.  One of my favorite “tricks” to assist back of tongue elevation is to use the Z-Vibe with the Hard Spoon Tip:

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Speech Trick for K, G, and Y

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Place the bowl of the Spoon Tip on the tip of the tongue, and then have the child say the sound (as demonstrated in the video below).  By holding down the tip of the tongue with a tactile cue, you make sure that only the back of the tongue will be able to elevate.  Oftentimes children will have trouble distinguishing between using their tongue tip for /t/d/n/l/ versus the back of the tongue for /k/g/y/.  So this is one way that you can isolate the back of the tongue movement for the /k/g/y/ sounds.

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Remember to explain to the child what you’re about to do and why.  It can work wonders to help them feel more comfortable, understand what’s going on, and have a more productive session.  If necessary, I demonstrate the exercise/skill on a puppet, on my hand (my hand being the “tongue”), and/or on myself.
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Why a Spoon Tip?  Even though the Spoon tip is traditionally used in feeding therapy, it’s also “just the right size” to hold down the tongue tip for this articulation exercise – big/wide enough without being too big.
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For more Z-Vibe exercise ideas, click here.
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Enjoy, and as always, don’t forget to think outside of the box!
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Debbie

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Thumb / Finger Sucking Alternatives

Question:   My sensory child is more of a sucker than chewer.  She usually sucks on her thumb and fingers, but I am wanting to get her some other options for school and transitions.  She’s 5.  What do you recommend?


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Thumb/finger sucking can be a very hard habit to break – what works for one person may not work for the next.  Our products are mostly used by kids who need to chew.  Sucking isn’t as direct of a use for them, so I can’t be 100% sure she would use our tools as a substitute.  But some parents have successfully redirected the habit to our chew tools before, so I’d say it’s worth a shot.

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Thumb / Finger Sucking Alternatives

As a general rule for choosing a chew tool, I recommend trying to best match what the individual already likes to chew/suck on, as that will give you the best chance that the child will use it.  In this respect you’re in luck  – almost all of our chew tools have long extensions to reach the back molars, which means they’re also long like fingers.  We also have both smooth and textured designs.  The smooth ones would most closely match the feel of one’s hand.
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Food Pocketing in the Lips, Cheeks, and/or Gums

Question:  My four year old daughter pockets food in her lower gums.  Foods like pizza, chicken, egg whites, etc. (that do not melt like crackers or cookies).  She will simply let it stay in her gum pockets until she looks like a chipmunk and eventually we will have to remove it with our fingers.  She is not able to automatically understand the natural process of not allowing the food simply stay in her gum pockets.  How can we help her get the natural biting and chewing action which will prevent her from pocketing food in her gums?  We have a Grabber already and have her practice chewing on both the left and right sides.


Food Pocketing - possible causes & what you can do

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Great question.  There may be a few different reasons involved and a few different strategies to try: Continue reading Food Pocketing in the Lips, Cheeks, and/or Gums

The Right and Wrong Way to Spoon Feed

The Right and Wrong Way to Spoon Feed

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Did you know that there is a right and wrong way to spoon feed?
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The wrong way involves lifting your hand upward as you remove the spoon from the child’s mouth.  This method scrapes the spoon against the teeth, gums, and/or upper lip to get food off of the spoon.
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Scraping is not the normal, natural way to feed.  And specifically for children with oral motor delays, it’s a missed opportunity, as it doesn’t allow the lips to do their job and close around the spoon.  It can also force the child’s head back as they try to “chase” the spoon upward.  You can see this happening in the image above and also in the beginning of the video below.
. Continue reading The Right and Wrong Way to Spoon Feed