Food! Great topic for this week’s post! I love going to the grocery store and thinking about food that some of my kiddos may eat. For today, the focus will not be so much on picky eaters but my “mouth stuffers”; the kiddos that like a lot of food in their mouth at once. These kids tend to love more input into their bodies as a whole. In my experience these kiddos often have slightly rounded bellies and possibly sit in a W-sit. Their mouths may sit slightly open and they may drool longer than some other kids. Raise your hand if you have a child who presents with similar qualities. Any of my therapy friends have kiddos on their caseloads who present with these characteristics? Why talk about food? How do I get you on board with thinking outside of the box for food options?
I recently went to a training: Integrating the Mouth with Sensory and Postural Functions that really put together many pieces for me in my practice. (Well worth looking into!) I have been to several trainings related to “feeding”. One of my favorites was Introduction to Sensory Integration for the Speech Pathologist. I found this PDF by the presenters but unfortunately this specific training is no longer available. Can you guess what both of the trainings had on the table? Food, of course. Your next question may be “Why?” which is another excellent question, and one I will leave up to the presenters and the authors referenced in the two provided links. What I want to share with you today is what I have learned through my trainings and use in my practice. And, to share my personal experience being someone with lower tone.
This past weekend I was scurrying to complete my 2nd quarter taxes and billing as well as other office documentation, and I just wanted a crunch. Something to chew. It helps me focus; both an intense flavor and a crunch. Some of you will be nodding your heads and some of you will think I am crazy. When my mom chews gum she can take a 1/2 piece of Trident. I want 4. It provides me increased feedback and input into my mouth. It is how I roll. I love balsamic vinegar on my salads. I like pastrami. When I was at the training mentioned above, we each received our own bag of different flavors and textures of candy. I loved the atomic fire ball. I will admit I had to take the piece of candy out of mouth a couple of times, but I ate it all and most everyone else threw the fireball away. The interesting part about it was that I was alert for the next 3 hours and ready to go. It was a Saturday at 5pm after a 2 day training and usually I am dragging at the end of a training.
I had a kiddo on my caseload who grunted (he was nonverbal) for his mom’s lemon wedges that she was cutting for her water. Do you know that following sucking on the lemon (yes, it makes my lips pucker just thinking about it…yuck!) that he started saying “moo” for the first time? We were working on animal sounds at the time and something clicked. I have had other kiddos like sauerkraut. Several kiddos I have seen would not consume meats. Either out right refused, or over-stuffed meat in their mouth and then spit the meat out. I suggested adding taco seasoning and guess what? The kiddos each began eating chicken and beef in this manner.
I remember many moons ago having two of my kiddos dip their dum dum suckers into powdered tang and country time lemonade. Sour seems to be a preference with some of our kiddos as discussed in these two research articles, but overall, limited research is available. I had the kiddos rub the powder in each cheek, on their tongue, hard palate, etc which encouraged imitation of tongue lateralization and tongue-tip elevation. We performed this together and licked our lips too! I am puckering and my kiddos are loving it. I am not sure what prompted me to do so, but it helped our sessions. In the past I had a little boy who would not eat pbj sandwiches. After eating several tart craisins, he proceeded to eat half of the pbj sandwich. Why? Each of these kiddos possessed two common denominators: low tone in the oral area, and throughout their bodies; and they overstuffed at mealtimes.
Hear me when I say that these types of strategies did not make my kids talk, but what I have witnessed in many of my kiddos is an increased awareness of the mouth, decreased stuffing, decreased drooling, and increased attention. It is important to keep in mind the medical piece for our kiddos too. I see many kiddos who present with reflux also so I would suggest moderation in any strategy.
I tapped into something earlier about myself and my attention following the consumption of the atomic fireball. Think about gum chewers, hard candy connoisseurs, chip crunchers…these types of oral fixes tend to improve attention. One of the many points that I loved at this training was that candy was not promoted, but the idea was to increase the intensity of the flavor, which then decreases the need for large quantities. If your first go-to to help a kiddo with attention is to place the child in a high chair I am cringing as I type. Eek! We can build movement into activities as discussed in one of my recent posts. We can explore other seating options such as a bean bag chair or the infamous cube chair. Consult with our Occupational or Physical Therapist for suggestions. And, we can explore other options such as what I call “high-taste” food items.
Consider joining me on this blogging journey and receive my weekly posts via email. Just enter your email and confirm the email from WordPress. We are going to think about a variety of topics which pertain to Autism, Apraxia, low tone, food, attention, toy selection, and more in the upcoming weeks. Grab a cup of coffee and invite a friend!