Feeding Problems, Picky Eater, Oral Motor Problems, Stuttering, Speech

Picky Eaters, often due to Oral Motor problems, can make meals very stressful, and the OTvest “Feels Good,” helping the wearer RELAX. Stuttering can also be reduced due to the relaxation through deep pressure therapy. The OTvest is a holistic intervention that can do so much!

When you child is a “picky eater,” mealtimes can be highly stressful for everyone. If a child screams, cries, tantrums, refuses foods or falls apart when new foods are presented, these can be red flags that there is a feeding problem.

The use of the OTvest™ to help address feeding or oral motor problems such as difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia), chewing, and sucking is a useful intervention because the stabilization of the trunk is fundamental to stabilizing the neck, followed by the head, and then the oral muscles needed to address oral motor dysfunction. The calming effect of wearing the OTvest can be very extremely helpful in reducing the stress that mealtime can present for picky eaters.

Speech and language therapists have found the OTvest helpful in treatment sessions because of the calming and focusing effect, which makes sessions more productive. A decrease in stuttering has also been noted when wearing the OTvest, weighted vest because of the calming, anxiety reducing effects of the deep pressure touch therapy. The pressure also causes the wearer to respond physiologically (reflexively) by opening up their chest and standing/sitting with better posture, gaining better respiration.

Nancy VandenBerg, MS, OTR, is the creator of the OTvest and has over 35 years of direct treatment experience working with infants through young adults with feeding and swallowing disorders. She is Bobath (directly from Berta and Karle Bobath), NDT, sensory motor integration trained, as well as experienced with a variety of physical disabilities and treatment of oral motor dysfunction. She has worked closely with speech and language pathologists and parents in their home, as part of a treatment team–as well as within early intervention classrooms.

The most basic, essential, and effective treatment for children, teens and adults with neurogenic disorders who have feeding/swallowing problems is positioning of the head, trunk and the oral area through symmetrical alignment. The OTvest aids in the important first step of  facilitating trunk and head alignment by stabilizing in a symmetrical manner with the use of the unique, patented, insert with weights that surround the shoulder-girdle area. The OTvest distributes the quilted in, flat weights uniformly across the front and back of the wearer, promoting scapular (shoulder-blade) stability–important to trunk stabilization and deep pressure touch therapy for calming the wearer.

A secure trunk provides increased neck and head control which in turn, helps promote oral motor control, influencing the stability and movement of the oral structures needed for feeding, drinking and language skills.

This is similar to stabilizing the ankle, for example, to address problems in the knee and hip–like building blocks that have to rely on the straight bottom block for the next block to stack without being out of alignment. Each block depends on the secure, symmetrical foundation below.

It is important, for example, that a child is positioned with support in a properly fitted chair to help teach self-feeding with hips and feet properly supported. This positioning helps provide the trunk stabilization. Proper trunk stabilization insures that an individual has the necessary foundation to help develop the finer muscles of the lips, tongue and throat.  The OTvest is particularly helpful as the weights surround the shoulder-girdle, putting mild pressure on the scapula (shoulder blades) which aids in trunk stabilization.   Weights only hanging inside pockets in a weighted vest, like most on the market, do little to help stabilize the trunk–and often only rest upon the chair when the individual is seated.

“Eating is a complex task influenced by the child’s [or adult’s] personal and contextual factors. Appetite, motivation, stress, gastrointestinal problems, prematurity, respiratory disorders, cardiac disorders, sensory differences, and developmental disabilities are personal factors that can influence eating…the interaction of the child’s [or adult’s] personal factors (low muscle tone) and environmental (stress) negatively affects occupational performance.”1

The soothing, calming deep pressure provided by the weights from the OTvest help reduce the stress that can be a part of the eating difficulty, as well as addressing the tone issues through increasing trunk stability and postural security. This is also true with stuttering, where improved relaxation and stress reduction can help in decreased stuttering.

Occupational therapy integrates posture, sensory, motor, behavioral/learning, medical and nutritional factors to comprehensively evaluate and manage children and adults with feeding/growth problems. (see SPF web site for resources www.spdstar.org). Speech and Language therapists also work to promote the oral motor skills that are fundamental to speech and language skills.

An infant, child’s, teen’s or adult’s work on oral motor function and/or dysphagia can benefit from trunk stabilization by using the OTvest, weighted vest because of the unique, patented weight insert. The deep pressure from the strategically placed weights in the OTvest can increase kinesthetic body awareness, promote calm and a sense of well-being–reducing stress while eating, and improve body stability.

Where the weight is placed makes a difference, and that is the important difference in the OTvest, weighted vest–with less weight necessary than other weighted vests on the market to be effective–because of the effective USE of PHYSICS. Less weight is needed when pressing down, as in the OTvest,  than with weights only pulling down (with weights inside pockets or hems).

1. Berry, J., Foster, L. Unraveling the reasons for food refusal in children. OT Practice, May 23, 2016. 21-23.