All children are born hard-wired to eat. However, some children with poor oral motor skills may present with many challenges while feeding. Some children may appear to be “messy eaters”, but in reality, they may not have the strength to successfully close their lips around a spoon. Other kids may tend to rush through meals, however their oral awareness may actually be reduced and they may not even be aware of how much food is actually in their mouths. Therefore mealtimes may prove to be difficult and frustrating for children, and equally as stressful for mom and dad.
Oral Motor And Feeding Red Flags
- Lack of oral-exploration with non-food items as an infant
- Difficulties transitioning between different textures of foods
- Weaknesses sucking, chewing, and swallowing
- Frequent coughing and/or gagging when eating
- Vomiting during or after meals
- Refusal to eat certain textures of foods
- Rigidity with diet
- Avoidance of touch on face and around mouth
- Loss of food and liquids when eating
- Obvious preference for certain textures or flavors of foods
- Increased congestion during and after meals
- Grimacing/odd facial expressions when eating
- Consistent wiping of hands and face during meals
- Pocketing of food in cheeks, or residue observed after swallow
- Irritability and anxiety during mealtime
- Excessive drooling and lack of saliva management
- Sudden refusal to eat previously tolerated foods
- Excessive weight gain or loss
Oral-Motor Skill Improvement
Fortunately, there are also many activities you can easily incorporate at home to facilitate improvements with oral-motor skills.
- Blowing activities (blow-pens, instruments, whistles, etc.) help to improve posture, breath control, lip rounding, and motor-planning skills.
- Infant massage may also help to increase oral-awareness and facial tone.
- Straws, sour candies, and bubbles may help with drooling.
- Constantly exposing your child to a variety of new foods will help to avoid food jags, and increase their tolerance to different textures and tastes.
If you notice that your child presents with some of the above-mentioned characteristics and does not seem to be improving, it would be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about your concerns.