Oral Hypersensitivities and Speech Therapy

Children with oral hypersensitivities, also called oral defensiveness, will exhibit many, or all, of the following characteristics:

1. dislikes having teeth brushed and/or face washed

2. has a limited food repertoire and/or may avoid certain food textures – especially mixed textures.

3. will take their food off the fork or spoon using only their teeth, keeping their lips retracted

4. will gag easily when eating and may only get food down by taking a drink with it

In addition, children may exhibit signs of tactile defensiveness such as; disliking being touched, avoiding messy play (glue, play doh, mud, sand, finger paints, etc. ), or, may not pick up eating utensil or food with a grasp that involves the palm of his hand.

When working with oral defensiveness, keep in mind that the mouth is an “extension of the body”.

Let the child know what you are doing and what you will do next. Use firm pressure with slow even strokes… the more predictable the better. Start with the feet, legs, hands, and arms.

Once you have reached the face, start with his cheeks, then jaw, lips, don’t move too quickly to the inside of the mouth! Give the child the most control at this stage.

Take it slow and do not force stimulation on any part he is not “ready” for… try it, just don’t force it – severe anxiety or fear and gagging are signs of distress, not effective therapy – gently work your way through this no matter how long it takes.

Lastly, oral motor programs, therapy for oral sensitivities, and child speech therapy may not be able to be worked on, or effective, until underlying sensory issues are addressed and sensory stimulation is tolerated.