Growing up in an Italian household, learning to eat was not difficult. In fact, I realized very quickly that I had to chew quickly to ensure someone didn’t steal the last bite off of my plate, especially on pasta night. It has been very difficult for me to understand that eating doesn’t come naturally to Harrison. Enter speech therapy.
When my husband and I started to explore the different types of therapies that would help Harrison learn and develop, I couldn’t understand how speech therapy could benefit him at only three months old. But speech therapy isn’t just about talking and pronunciation, it is also about teaching a child to feed and develop the muscles of their mouth.
I started “exercising” Harrison’s jaws by letting him bite on my pinky finger. Our therapist had recommended using a baby toothbrush (a plastic finger cover with bristles for cleaning baby’s gums), but poor little Harrison choked on the big plastic brush. As the incredibly undomesticated diva that I am, I figured my finger would be a great substitute. Boy, was I wrong. I let him chew 50 times on each side, often yelping in pain when he bit down a little too hard. I think this was his way of trying to tell me he didn’t like my little game.
We soon discovered ARK Therapeutic Services, a producer of speech therapy tools. Our therapist suggested we use their Z-Vibe tool to help feed Harrison. We ordered the light-blue version and now use it before every feeding to “wake up” Harrison’s mouth. With the soft spoon tip (pictured below), the vibrations of the Z-Vibe help ensure Harrison connects the motions of his mouth with food consumption.
While it seemed awkward to place a vibrating spoon in my baby’s mouth, I have come to realize that the movements help Harrison understand that it is time to feed. Just like the smell of roasting garlic awakens my senses, the vibrations of the Z-Vibe tell Harrison food is coming.
Another wonderful speech therapy tool by ARK Therapeutic Services, Grabbers are great for exercising the muscles of the jaw. We purchased a few of them and keep them in every room so Harrison can practice moving his jaws while chewing on these unique toys. He seems to like them much more than my finger.
A family-run business, ARK Therapeutic Services is based in South Carolina. Debbie, a therapist, and her husband, John, an engineer, developed oral sensory motor tools to treat Debbie’s patients. ARK Therapeutic Services now offers an extensive line of therapy products for oral motor development, sensory integration, oral defensiveness, texture aversions, fine motor, drinking, feeding and chewing for children and adults.
For more information about ARK Therapeutics, click here.