On the Horizon – 01/11/12

Welcome to "On the Horizon"

Issue 175: Oral Motor and Its Affect on Feeding Disorders

On the Horizon is an award winning weekly ezine for parents of children with developmental disabilities who want simple, effective strategies to reduce stress, support their child’s development, and improve quality of life for the whole family.

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  • A Note from Nicole: Our website has been redesigned!
  • Feature Article:
    Oral Motor and Its Affect on Feeding Disorders
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Hi Everyone!

Happy New Year!  I hope 2012 has been off to a great start for you.  Our staff here at Horizons enjoyed some time off with our families over the holidays, and now we are back in full swing again.  We’ve got lots of new and exciting plans for 2012 and can’t wait to share them with you.  For now, you can check out our redesigned website at www.HorizonsDRC.com.  There is a great new video and lots of other features to enjoy.

This week’s feature article from Erin discussed oral motor skills and how deficits in these areas can impact feeding.  If your child struggles with eating or feeding issues, you’ll want to read her tips on addressing this area.  The question from a reader this week has to do with her daughter touching people all the time.  Read below for Michelle’s excellent ideas and strategies!

Have a fantastic rest of your week!

Looking to the horizon,

Oral Motor and Its Affect on Feeding Disorders

By Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP

What is an oral motor deficit?  An oral motor deficit affects the musculature of the mouth including the lips, tongue, and jaw.  The following are causes of oral motor disorders:

  • Incorrect motor programming of the muscles of the mouth.  In other words, the brain sends a message to the muscles of the mouth, but the muscles don’t receive the message or it is misinterpreted.  This causes the muscles either to not move at all, or to move in an incorrect fashion that results in mismanagement of food in the mouth.
  • Low muscle tone, meaning the muscles of the lip, tongue, or jaw are weak.  Many times children with low muscle tone in the jaw have an open mouth posture.  Difficulty with puckering, drinking from a straw, or frequent spilling of liquids when drinking is caused by weak lip strength.  Poor tongue strength can result in an inability to stick the tongue out, or move it from side to side.  Drooling can also be caused by weakness in the muscles of the mouth.  Strengthening these muscles can be very important in improving both feeding deficits and speech intelligibility.

Click here to read the rest of this article…


My daughter just wants to touch people all the time. It’s frustrating and at times can be very embarrassing. She’ll even walk up to strangers. What can we do to stop this? If we tell her “No!” she gets a funny little smile on her face and then sometimes does it again! Help!

~ Linda from Ann Arbor


It sounds like your daughter has become stuck on something that is very frustrating for your family. Sometimes a simple “No” isn’t enough. It also looks like she’s looking for the predictable response that she’ll get from doing this. Often times we’ll see these habits form in order to create a sense of certainty for a child in an uncertain environment. You probably see this happen most when she doesn’t know what else to do or is in an environment that is overwhelming to her. Here are a couple of ideas to help:

  1. Ignore her when she does this. If she is looking for that predictable response (“No!” or frustration), then her need of creating a predictable response in an uncertain environment is being met. If she doesn’t get a response, eventually it won’t be worth doing it anymore.
  2. Provide simple roles for her in both settings. Maybe this is happening while at the grocery store. If this is the case, maybe she can check off the items on the list, look for the items on the list, or simply push the cart. If she is touching people she doesn’t know in public places, make sure you are holding her hand or pushing the cart with one hand over hers to ensure she doesn’t walk off. If this is happening while riding in the car, maybe you can play a simple game like “I Spy.”
  3. Do it back to her. Every time she touches you, touch her back. She may just get the idea how annoying it is!
  4. Role-playing the problem can help spotlight for her what she is doing and how it is bothering others. You can do this with puppets, stuffed animals, or dolls. Use these to act out the scenario in short little “plays” so she can see how it affects other people outside of the immediate moment.
  5. Give her tools to help her not do it, “if you are having a hard time not touching people, you can sit on your hands.” “If you feel like touching somebody, maybe you can squeeze a stress ball instead.”
  6. If you find that none of these other things are working and you feel she is doing it intentionally, offer a consequence. “If you touch me again, you can sit in your room until you are ready to keep your hands to yourself.”

I hope that helps reduce this frustration for you and your family!

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