"My child uses the Grabber® and Grabber XT® in Speech Therapy. She is now beginning to bite and chew.
Thank you for designing such wonderful oral motor tools."
Oral defensiveness/sensitivities and feeding difficulties can require lots of PRE-intervention strategies for individuals with SPD. Before beginning any treatment plan, it is important that the individual first be seen by a dentist to rule out any medical issues that may be the underlying cause of oral sensitivities. Following that visit, it is important to assess the individual's development and feeding history. The caregiver can document a list of foods and drinks that the individual eats for three days. From this food log and additional information provided by caregiver, you can determine what food preferences and/or aversions are present, if any. Treating individuals who have oral defensiveness requires a team approach, so the SLP, OT, and caregiver (if medical management is not warranted) should work together to implement an intervention plan.
The very first thing for the SLP to do is to establish rapport and trust. There is no timeline for this, which takes the pressure off of the therapist, the caregiver, and the individual. Proceed slowly, following the individual's lead and stopping BEFORE the he/she becomes overloaded. Children can be very adept at sensing any frustration, overeagerness, and being in a rush, so it is important to monitor your emotions and maintain a non-stressful therapy atmosphere.
Vibration with the Z-Vibe® (or DnZ-Vibe®) has proven to be successful in decreasing oral defensiveness/sensitivities. Many individuals find it soothing and calming. Others, however, may not like it at all. Each individual is wired differently, and using vibration will depend on the individual's preference. In some cases, it may be best to just not turn it on. Even without vibration, getting into the mouth with the Z-Vibe® and presenting different textures (and shapes and scents) to the lips, tongue, cheek, gums, etc. will be beneficial. If the individual's diet has limited foods with texture, I would start with ARK's Sylvie Spoon Tip, for example, which has texture on the bottom for added sensory input. You can also use the Probe, Preefer, and Mini Tips as spoons - just dip them in whatever the individual will eat and feed it to him/her.
For those individuals who are not used to the Z-Vibe®, you may need to introduce it to them slowly. Present the Z-Vibe® gradually through play, beginning with touch on the leg, arm, etc. ARK also carries Smiley Glove labels/stickers, which encourage cooperation. Stick these labels onto any glove and use them with hand motions to help children feel more at ease and to create a friendlier environment for oral motor stimulation. They're great for play therapy and a compliment to language stimulation.
While the Z-Vibe® can certainly be used to treat individuals with feeding issues and SPD, it is not the only treatment strategy. SLPs should work closely with the child's OT to incorporate sensory activities into their therapy sessions. You can use these intervention strategies/activities in the beginning of therapy as well as throughout for breaks. The books below provide valuable information and ideas for SPD: