Lingual lateralization refers to your tongue moving to the side of your mouth. When we eat a solid food….we bite through the solid with our front teeth….lateralize the food with our tongue to the side…..chew and then swallow. Children with Down Syndrome may have difficulty with the ability to lateralize the food to the side of their mouth. They also may fatigue during chewing due to lower muscle tone, therefore, may have difficulty with the rotary chew.
The exercise described below is a pre-feeding exercise….it should be used to maintain the lateral tongue reflex, stimulate lingual lateralization and help with the rotary chew (the diagonal movement of the jaw). So….prior to eating solid foods we can work on lingual lateralization and the rotary chew…..this way when your little one is ready to eat solid foods… she will be able to move the food to the side and demonstrate the rotary chew. When you stimulate the sides of the tongue you will naturally see movement because this is the lateral tongue reflex. So maintaining this lateral tongue reflex will help with lingual lateralization and also will help with the rotary chew.
The first thing you need is a toothette. You can buy these at www.talktools.com or your local surgical supply store should have them as well. The very first step before this enters your baby’s mouth is to cut the wings off the toothette. If you look closely at the picture….you should be able to see the protrusions on the toothette. With your scissors…remove all of the wings. The only reason for this is because the toothette is too big for your little one’s mouth. I have not seen toothettes in any other size.
So after you cut the wings off….dip it in water….or formula….or breast milk…. or a little juice….just to get the toothette a little wet. It is a sponge…but the texture of it is a bit course if it is not wet.
Now the following exercise is going to be done five times on the right side and five times on the left side.
Start at the back of the tongue with the toothette…..and run the toothette along the side of the tongue until you reach the tip of the tongue…..you should start to see your little one’s tongue moving to the side as you are doing this exercise. This should be done five times on the left side of the tongue and five times on the right side of the tongue.
Remember the goal of this exercise is to maintain the lateral tongue reflex, improve lingual lateralization and help the rotary chew.