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Oral Defensiveness Activities for Preemies

Young children with feeding issues related to sensory disorder, tactile defensiveness, and poor motor coordination can benefit from stimulation activities at home by parents. Parents of preemies with sensory integration issues suggest helpful sensory activities.

By Virginia Brick and Jacque Shatako

Virginia Brick suggests:

A NUK oral massager for the gums (found in most pharmacies) We use this across his gum, tongue and around the sides of his mouth.

A small finger brush (a little thing that fits over the finger and is used to brush baby's gums.

A strong piece of sterile tubing (not sure where you get this as our OT gave it to us) C. bites down on it, under close supervision as he is 4 and I am always afraid he will chomp a piece off and choke.

We always offer him foods of different textures: pretzels, crackers, puddings, jell-o, ice cream, mashed potatoes, etc.

Drinks of different temperature and "fizz". Ice water, warmer water and the odd "coke" which has that fizzle effect in the mouth.

A regular toothbrush which we use the normal way plus brushing across his tongue and the sides of his mouth. The suggestion of the electric toothbrush would work too. We have only tried it once and found that the vibration of it startles him.

Jacque Shatako's son was oral defensive and was tube-fed until about 4 years old.

One other thing our ST suggested was rubbing his face, around his mouth, with cloths of different textures of fabrics (like satin, velvet, etc.).

Put peanut butter on his upper lip and have him lick it he could learn to use his tongue to locate the food.

One thing R. used to do when he as first learning to eat was to take french fries, dip them in ketchup and just suck the ketchup off. Eventually he learned to take small bites of the fries, too.

We did a lot of positive reinforcement during eating attempts. I would read books to him at the table.Before I would turn the page, he had to swallow a bite of food. Or he would get tokens for eating a certain amount. Then he could cash the tokens in for something he wanted. Or we would put stickers in a notebook for him.

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