Thursday, July 28, 2016

Therapy Tip-Items at Wal-Mart for Oral-Sensory Play

Welcome again to Therapy Thursday!

This is the day I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's tip is:

Items at Wal-Mart for Oral-Sensory Play

The teething and rattle section at my local Wal-Mart

Almost every parent purchases toys for their babies to chew on for teething and play. Providing these type of toys is just a normal part of every baby's learning experience and development.

But there are babies who need oral-sensory play to address their developmental, medical, or sensory needs. Who? Babies who have low muscle tone including those with Down syndrome. Babies with a feeding tube with limited or no oral feedings but with the hopes of one day becoming an oral feeder. Babies who eat orally but have feeding challenges none the less.

As a speech-language pathologist, I have access to websites and catalogues selling costly tools for oral play. Many of these tools are designed to:
-provide texture for a sensory experience
-provide resistance to develop jaw strength
-provide stimulation (and therefore a specific movement) of the lips, tongue, or jaw
-encourage munching or chewing motions
-provide vibration to help the child receive added input

These specialized tools are great and useful. In fact, there are many courses and books that tell speech-language pathologist how to best use them and even have hierarchies for determining progress. I have purchased many of these and use them in my practice. But, what are parents suppose to do beyond the prescribed exercises? Many of these tools are not meant to be handed to a baby for their own oral play. Instead, they are done with a parent/SLP making sure the tool is used appropriately. These programs are great, and this entry is not about finding an alternative to them.

But the questions becomes for me as a speech-language pathologist:
How can I encourage the baby's oral-sensory play in a safe manner once I leave the house?

My answer has been to look for things available to any baby at local stores. Over the past few years, I have been finding more and more teethers and baby toys that can help fill some of the objectives I have with babies who need oral-sensory play.

Below are some products I found at my local Wal-Mart that would be useful for babies under 12 months who have been determined to need oral-sensory play. While I cannot go into too much detail in this blog about how to use each tool for a specific problem. I will tell you what I see when I look at these products as a speech-language pathologist. Hopefully, this can help you when you are shopping for your child.

Here are some things I like about the Munchkin Orajel Massaging Teether:
-It has bite activated vibration which should encourage baby to repeat biting.
-There are different textures on the teething parts which will give different feedback to the baby.
-The actual teething parts of this are made of different shapes. These allow the baby to use different teeth or to use varying amounts of force to compress the teether.

Next up is the RaZ-Berry Teether.
-I especially like this for those babies who are tube fed and need oral stimulation during feedings. This pacifier type teether is not smooth but has bumps and textures on it giving different feedback than a typical pacifier.
-This can be frozen to allow a cold temperature to be introduced and therefore add another layer of stimulation to the baby's mouth.

This is the Gummi Teething Necklace.
-This is a very basic version of an expensive version sold by therapeutic companies. This has texture on the teether to give the baby additional feedback in their mouth.
-The necklace is designed to be worn on the mother while the baby chews. This could be beneficial for babies who need oral play but like to be on mom's lap often. This teething necklace isn't necessarily that special, but I see where it would have uses for particular babies.

Now, let's look at the Nuby 3 Step Teether Set.
-I love how this includes three teethers going from Step 1 to 3. While they determine the steps on which teeth are needed for the teether, it can be also be said that these teethers go from least resistance to most resistance. That means the amount of jaw strength needed to compress or bite the teether increases through the steps.
-Again, I love that each teether has different textures on them for providing different feedback for baby's mouth.

Here we have the Infantino Vibrating Teether.
-I love anything that vibrates to give more feedback to the baby, especially those with low muscle tone.
-Vibration is again activated with biting, so this may give you some indication of the baby's jaw strength.

Finally, this is one of my go to products in my therapy practice, the NUK tooth and gum cleanser with a finger brush. Though, this is a product that baby cannot use alone.
-Proving oral stimulation of the gums and teeth is essential early on for babies who have low muscle tone or feeding difficulties. This product is great because you get the cleanser and also the finger brush to provide this stimulation. If the baby cannot tolerate the cleanser, you can still use the finger brush.
-The finger brush can also be used to encourage munching movements on a baby by stimulating the back molar region of the gums. This is a technique that I have learned about by taking courses through Talk Tools. For more information on this, please consult a trained SLP.

I hope you can see what I see when I look at these types of products for babies and promoting oral-sensory play. Check out your local stores and see what you find.

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice. Please consult your child's speech-language pathologist to see how and if these products can be used for your child.

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