Q: Can you please tell me how to use (oral exercises) ARK’s Animal Tips for jaw grading and stability? Also, where are the bite blocks? Please explain the different levels of thickness on the tips. I am working with a 20-month-old with limited sounds including vowels and consonants and low tone.
A: Dear therapist,
I am glad you emailed me with such a great question. The Animal Tips have bite blocks on their reverse sides to work on jaw grading and stability. They are of three distinct thicknesses to increase the level of difficulty as the individual progresses. The Dog Tip has the thickest block; the Mouse Tip a thinner block; and the Cat Tip the thinnest. They also come in two different resiliencies (soft and hard) to accommodate various sensory preferences.
A little background on jaw grading and stability: Dissociation (also known as differentiation) means separating the tongue from the jaw, or the lips from the jaw. For example, the tongue needs to work independently of the jaw in order to make the ‘L’ sound, /l/. This is true with vowels as well. Try saying a long ‘e’ sound and compare that with the ‘aw’ sound. Can you feel the height difference? This height difference is called jaw grading. However, before you can work on jaw grading, you must first work on stability. Stability allows the individual to have control for movements of the articulators. Think of a child with cerebral palsy with his/her mouth wide open trying to close the lips around a spoon. He or she needs to have stability in the trunk, for example, before he or she can have control over the mouth. That is why a physical and occupational therapist need to be involved with positioning them correctly. Otherwise, their movements are spastic, etc.
Now for some applications. Start with the Dog Tip, which has the thickest block. Have the individual bite and hold the block for 3-5 seconds. Release and repeat. Then progress to the Mouse and then the Cat.
You can also work on jaw grading by allowing the individual to mouth and explore the Animal Tips. Their cheeks, ears, faces, etc. all differ in height/thickness to provide a range of high and low jaw positions. For example, you can present the Cat’s ears to the individual with the face facing upwards. Or, you can hold the tip sideways, which will provide a different height and require the jaw to open wider.
You can also dip the Animal Tips in juice, applesauce, etc. to increase interest and promote mouthing. Or you can assign a developmental sound for each animal from which the toddler can choose by vocalizing/imitating. Be animated, lots of play. This family is lucky to have you as their SLP! If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me.
All my best,