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Helping Children to Overcome a Lack of Feeling in Their Mouth

This is Max using a teether, to help increase feeling in his mouth.

I met with a two-year-old boy named Max, who had a lack of feeling in his mouth. He was refusing to eat most foods. He would feed himself, however, he would refuse to be fed. This alone made me realize he needed to feel the texture of the food with his fingers. He didn’t want to eat from a utensil because if he couldn’t feel the food with his fingers to discover its texture, he didn’t know if it would dissolve in his mouth. He also was not receiving or giving kisses. This was upsetting, especially for his mother. She held back her desire for Max to kiss her back, to avoid disturbing him. This also gave me a clue that he needed to have the nerves of his mouth “woken up” to feel the kiss and then learn how to decipher the tactile information. I assisted Max to gain feeling in his mouth by having his parents massage Max’s face and lips with their fingers and a washcloth. I also provided Max with a massaging teether that helps to alert the nerves of the tactile system. For extra stimulation, I encouraged Max’s parents to brush the inner surfaces of his mouth with a toothbrush. The good news is within four days, Max initiated his first kiss. He also started eating a greater variety of food and he was even comfortable being fed with utensils. I was happy to help Max learn to awaken feeling in his mouth. I hope my techniques will help Max to gain weight for an upcoming heart surgery. I also am excited to know through my occupational therapy tools, there will be many kisses exchanged between Max and his parents! I love these rewarding experiences where I can illustrate knowledge of the body to parents, teachers and caregivers, to better help them to understand the actions of their child/student. Really, the ability of this child was to show us what he needed. I can’t wait to share more stories of ability with you soon!

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