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Helping Kids Overcome Oral Sensory Challenges
Caring For Kids,  Nutrition

Helping Kids Overcome Oral Sensory Challenges

Helping Kids Overcome Oral Sensory Challenges


  • Orality: What is it? 
  • Definition of oral sensory disorders 
  • The intervention of the speech therapist in oral sensory disorders 

Does your child refuse to eat, have selective eating habits, reject new foods, or experience nausea or vomiting during meals? These are the main symptoms of an oral sensory disorder. Let’s take a closer look. 

Orality: What is it?

Helping Kids Overcome Oral Sensory Challenges

Orality refers to the functions related to the mouth, with language and feeding being the primary functions.

Orality begins before birth when the fetus explores its mouth with its fingers or toes and swallows amniotic fluid. These early explorations trigger the “suck-swallow” reflex, the first step in orality. 

It continues after birth when the infant nurses from the breast or bottle, sucks their thumb and starts babbling. 

Gradually, the child will sit up and eat with a spoon, transitioning to a more solid and varied diet. Chewing will slowly develop (around two years old). As chewing skills develop, the child will start saying words and eventually form short sentences. 

Good to know: When oral development is not disrupted, children enjoy exploring their mouths and trying new sounds, textures, and foods. 

Definition of oral sensory disorders 

Oral sensory disorders are characterized by hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to tastes and smells.

Hypersensitivity is observed in:

  • Difficulties during meals;
  •  Refusal to taste new foods;
  •  Avoidance of certain textures;
  •  Resistance to tooth brushing;
  •  Lack of mouth exploration.

Sometimes, the child refuses to eat, which may be mistaken for anorexia, but in this case, the cause is not psychological but physiological. 

In the case of hyposensitivity, the child does not react or reacts minimally to oral stimuli: 

  • Difficulty recognizing foods in the mouth;
  • Lack of chewing and swallowing food;
  • Stuffing food into the mouth;
  • Rapid ingestion of food.

Good to know: Some sources say dysoralité affects 25% of children. 

The intervention of the speech therapist in oral sensory disorders 

Certain symptoms require consultation with a professional: 

– Lack of mouth exploration with fingers or objects (0-24 months);

– Refusal of mashed foods beyond 9 months;

– Refusal of solid foods (cakes, bread, etc.) beyond 12 months;

– Refusal to bring the spoon to the mouth beyond 9 months;

– Frequent nausea or vomiting when the child comes into contact with food;

– Consistent avoidance of certain textures or foods;

– Lack of enjoyment in eating, crying, or avoiding mealtime 

– Weight loss in the child.

The speech therapist will observe your child and ask you numerous questions about their eating habits. They will also assess their motor skills, language, hearing, swallowing, and behavior. 

The therapy will then focus on food sensitivity and aim to alleviate aversion to oral contact with food. To achieve this, the speech therapist will: 

  • Work on the lips, tongue, breath, and airflow;
  • Perform massages outside and inside the mouth to restore sensitivity and build trust in the child;
  • Address sensory issues in partnership with parents: smelling odors, listening to food sounds, adopting a proper eating posture, etc. 

Good to know: Some children with oral sensory disorders may also have speech and language delays, requiring parallel therapy.

In conclusion, children can overcome oral sensitivities and expand their dietary choices through targeted therapy techniques, such as sensory stimulation and gradual exposure to various textures and tastes. Recognizing the signs and seeking professional help from a speech therapist is crucial for effective intervention. Additionally, the involvement of parents in creating a supportive mealtime environment and implementing strategies at home plays a vital role in the child’s progress. With early intervention and collaborative efforts, children can develop healthy oral sensory skills and improve their overall quality of life.

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