Possible Oral Apraxia or Oral Motor Warning Signs
There are two types of oral motor problems.
Oral Apraxia is a disorder where the child, who typically is a “late talker” is unable to coordinate and/or initiate movement of their jaw, lips and tongue (articulators) on command.
An Oral Motor Disorder, which could be a different oral motor problem than apraxia (could be from weakness/dysarthria for example) is the second type, in which the child is unable to coordinate and/or initiate movement of normal eating movements (vegetative activities.)
Here are some possible warning signs of the two types of oral motor problems, written by Lisa Geng, the parent of two children who were diagnosed by a neurologist (Trever. DeSouza MD) and a neurodevelopmental pediatrician (Marilyn Agin MD) with two different types of oral motor problems, with help from Cherab’s advisor, Sara R. Johnson, CCC/SLP.
Can your child do the following regularly or on command:
- kiss or make a kiss face?
- stick out his/her tongue?
- try to touch his/her tongue to his/her nose?
- make raspberries?
- lick peanut butter off his/her upper, side, or lower lip?
- imitate making a funny face?
- blow out candles or blow bubbles? (a typically-developing ten-month old can do this)
- bite his/her lower lip?
- show vvarious emotions in facial expressions?
- blow his/her nose on command?
(undocumented, off the record sign of apraxia that is reported as a problem by most parents of all aged, even teen apraxic children through the CHERAB group. This aspect of apraxia can also be overcome through strategies/therapies to assist with motor planning. These children have no trouble breathing through their nose or mouth all day long, but when a tissue it brought to their nose and they are told to breath out, they will breath in instead. There are nose horns developed by Sara Johnson CCC SLP which help a child learn to motor plan this activity as well. Breath control on command is essential for verbal speech.)
If your child cannot do all or some of the above, this may be a sign of Oral Apraxia, which is worth looking into with medical and speech professionals.
Or does your child…
- drool excessively?
- bite straws when drinking or put the straw more than 1/4 inch into his/her mouth?
- overstuff his/her mouth when eating?
- have an open mouth posture?
- have a protruding tongue?
- look like he/she is smiling all the time?
- prefer one brand of baby food carrots over another?
- have a limited diet?
- swallow without chewing?
- grind his/her teeth during the day?
- have a history of difficult nursing (or did you “not make enough milk” for your child to nurse)?
If your child does all or some of the above, this may be a sign of Oral Motor problems, which is worth exploring with medical and speech professionals.
If you are seeing any of the above signs, seek out the services of a Speech Language Therapist for an evaluation of these skills. This can be done through your State’s Early Intervention Programs, a free federally funded program for qualified children from birth to three years of age or through your school district’s preschool disabled program, a free program for qualified children between the ages of three to 6 years. You can also contact the American Speech Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Maryland for a list of certified clinicians in your area. It is very important to have an ACCURATE assessment completed by a skilled clinician. You may also want an evaluation from a developmental pediatrician, or pediatric neurologist to look for signs of low tone (hypotonia).
Videos and photos of a child with oral and verbal apraxia