Have you been trying to get your son to increase his vocalization but having problems and can’t afford all the bells and whistles of speech devices? If you are like me and you are struggling to make ends meet for your family then purchasing all the necessary equipment to help your child improve his/her speech can be stressful.
Our therapist have provided and suggested many devices for helping awaken the oral motor muscles. His therapy initially provided a Z-vibe to use which is a great and wonderful tool for speech. If you can afford it then I highly recommend that you invest in the product. However, with most things, batteries and replacement parts can start to add up. I thought the battery had run out so we purchased another one and when that didn’t work I gave it to the therapist to check out, after which she told me it was dead. A full kit can cost about $40-$50 depending on style and model. http://www.amazon.com/SENSORY-INTEGRATION-EXTRA-BATTERY-HANDWRITING/dp/B001BC2C9S
A cheap alternative that you can use for therapy is a motorized toothbrush. You can purchase some from most retail stores for about $10 or less. Try looking online or at various store outlets for oral motor tools that will help minimize your child’s oral defensiveness. Some recommended items are whistles, harmonicas, chewy tubes, recorders, etc.
A note about chewy tubes – I have tried these items in many shapes and sizes, in almost all cases my son gagged and threw up and refused to chew on them. He got a little clever and started to find ways to lose them.. 🙂 What I personally recommend on the chewy tubes is sticking to the ones that are not big and bulky. Try finding some that are small and skinny, if you don’t you will engage his gag reflux and spend more time cleaning up messes that accomplishing any therapy or oral improvement.
The purpose of the Z-vibe is to stimulate the oral motor muscles to wake up and allow your child to speak and swallow without the gag reflex muscles being engaged. Once again this is tied into his/her sensory issues. If your child suffers from oral defensiveness, it means that the muscles in the mouth do not have the ability to discern when it should be working. When you chew and swallow your food the muscles in the mouth automatically do what they are supposed to and keep you from choking. A child with sensory issues do not know where the food is in the mouth, therefore they require techniques such as cold toothbrushes on the sides of the mouth, tip of the tongue and roof of the mouth, drinking through straws and chewing tools to keep the muscles engaged. They might also have a problem controlling the muscles of the tongue and require exercises to help them.
I highly recommend the motorized toothbrush for your child if you can’t obtain a Z-vibe at this time. It will in the meantime keep the nerves in the mouth awakened and diminish his/her apprehension the more times you use it.
If you do the recommended exercises for oral motor – it is highly recommended to do so before a speech therapy appointment/exercise or right before eating.
*Use ice cold water on the tip of the tongue, on each side of the cheeks and on the roof of the mouth
* After you use the ice try to encourage your child to stick out his tongue (don’t be alarmed if he/she can’t, the purpose is to build up the tongue muscles)
*Model blowing kisses or bubbles and try to get your child to imitate you
*Have your child drink through a straw which also helps build up the muscles
*Give him cotton balls to blow across the table
If you have found any other exercises or oral motor tools that have helped your child, please share by comment or email!