Teaching Kids the Concept of Sucking (Not Blowing) through a Straw to Drink

Posted by Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP on 26th May 2017

Question:  Good afternoon!  I'm a speech therapist working on straw drinking with a child who has Autism. We've done the first 3 steps of your How to Teach Straw Drinking blog post, but cannot proceed to the 4th because the child does not know what it means in general to take a sip.  I cannot think of anything else to do.  He closes the lips around the straw but doesn't drink.  Instead, he blows from the straw in order to make bubbles in the glass.  Any ideas?



Try doing the first part of step 4 (removing your fingertip and allowing the liquid to flow into his mouth).  Once he sees (feels) that liquid comes out of the straw, that may help establish the concept. 

You may also need to do other sucking activities, such as:

•   Let him watch you suck through a straw with exaggerated movements.  

•   Have him pinch his nose and breath in.  Let him know that’s how you suck.

•   Tear pieces of paper and place them on the table.  Use the straw to suck up the piece of paper and move it to another spot. (The pieces of paper should be larger than the diameter of the straw diameter so that they're not sucked up through the straw.)

•   Picture symbols might help establish the concept as well (a picture of a vacuum cleaner sucking for example). 

Last but not least, if none of the above works, a one-way straw might help do the trick. These straws have a valve built into the bottom of the straw. The valve keeps liquid at the top of the straw - it doesn't flow back down into the cup.  Since liquid stays at the top of the straw, he'll need to suck just a little bit to be "rewarded" with liquid (as opposed to having to suck it up the full length of the straw).  

Because the valve is one-way:  things can go up but not down.  So liquid doesn't fall back down into the cup, and you can't blow through it either, only suck.  So if he uses this straw, he won't be able to blow bubbles with it. 

These straws can be used on their own, or they're also included with this Sip-Tip.  If used with the Sip-Tip, you can pump the lid to prime the straw / “help” fluid up the straw and into the child’s mouth to demonstrate what's supposed to happen.

I hope some of this is helpful!  


Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP