Oral Motor Therapy with Someone Who Is Visually Impaired

18th Sep 2018

Question: Do you have any specific tips for doing oral motor exercises with a child who is blind or visually impaired?


Almost all of the exercises we talk about (both in the  Z-Vibe book and on our blog) are tactile-based.  They focus on touch, not sight.  So you should be able to do almost all of the exercises. 

Before each exercise, we always recommend demonstrating the exercise first (on yourself, on a puppet, on a sibling, etc).  Demonstrating the activity not only helps set expectations, but it can also help decrease anxiety if kids are nervous and/or  orally defensive.  Without sight, you won't be able to do this visually, but you could still put the child’s hands over what you're doing so that they can feel it instead.

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Oral Motor Therapy with Someone Who Is Visually Impaired

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You may also need to talk more than you usually would, describing the tools and exercises in detail to give the child more context.  Describe the shape, color, whether it's hard or soft, what does it feel like, is it bumpy or smooth, and so forth.  Make it a language-based activity in addition to oral motor.

Introducing the Z-Vibe slowly will be even more important here, too.  Vibration can be very alerting, so use it in the off position without vibration first.  Let them touch and feel and explore it first, working slowly towards acceptance in the mouth.

Progress slowly and follow the child’s lead.  If the child shows any signs of resistance or discomfort, stop intervention at that point and revisit it later.  Kids don't always verbalize discomfort, so be sure to watch for physical signs of stress, such as pulling away, grimacing, flushed face, fast breathing, etc.  

You can also do the exercises to a beat or rhythm - sing the child’s favorite song for example.

Last but not least, we've also heard that solid, bright colors, such as red, orange, and yellow are usually more visible than pastels for individuals who have visual impairments.  So when selecting  oral motor tools, it may be worth choosing those colors when possible.  

I hope this helps some.  If you have any other questions please let us know :)