zain buncher 2Oral motor skill development refers to the use and function of the lips, tongue, hard and soft palates, jaw, and teeth.  The movement and coordination of these structures is very important in speech production, safe swallowing, and consuming various food items.  Normal oral motor development begins prior to birth and continues beyond the age of three.  By age four, most children can safely consume solids and liquids without choking.  Children with special needs can frequently exhibit immature oral motor skills.  For these children, it is important that an active learning curriculum include daily participation in oral motor activities. MouthingHOPSA

There is a correlation between how a child moves and how a child eats.  Typically, children who are unable to roll over are fed with formula or milk and may be beginning to suckle thinner, very smooth purees off of a spoon. A child who is able to sit up  is introduced to thicker/lumpier pureed foods.  As a child gains skills in crawling and walking table foods are introduced, first as a mashed texture and then as a regular texture. Why is this occurring?

As a child gains skills in crawling and walking – table foods are introduced, first as a mashed texture and then as a regular texture.  Why is this occurring?

More complex patterns of movement are required to perform more complex tasks.  Swallowing pureed food requires less complex movements of the mouth, where eating regularly textured food requires more complex motor patterns of the mouth.  To develop these complex patterns of movement, a child must be given the opportunity to explore and experiment with various movement patterns, not only with the body, but also with the mouth. 

Active learning environments such as the Little Room, Support Bench, Essef Board and HOPSA dress provide enriched opportunities for a child to learn to move.  In these environments a child can gain the ability to lift the head, stabilize the shoulders, rotate the trunk, use the arms and hands, and reciprocally move the legs.  As a child learns to move one body part, similar movement patterns can be learned by another part of the body, including the mouth.  

 

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