Oral Motor problems, feeding problems, & Eating Problems

The OTvest can Help in the Treatment of Feeding Problems, Picky Eaters, and Oral Motor Problems.

Oral motor, feeding problems, or eating difficulties can be very stressful, and the OTvest "Feels Good," helping the wearer relax. The OTvest is a simple, non-invasive intervention that can do so much!

Picky eaters, who are often suffering from oral motor conditions, can make meals very stressful. One benefit of wearing a weighted vest like the OTvest™ is that it simply “Feels Good” to wear, and is a natural treatment for anxiety, which can help those picky eaters finally eat with confidence! The deep pressure therapy that the OTvest™ denim weighted vest produces can also be used as a holistic treatment for stuttering, speech impediments, and as a natural treatment and intervention for other oral motor conditions.OTvest-Mom_feeding_daughter

The OTvest™ deep pressure therapy provides the components necessary for functional feeding skills (chewing, sucking, swallowing) through the promotion of:

  • Trunk, neck and head alignment
  • Trunk stability
  • Respiration by opening up of the chest
  • Kinesthetic awareness (where the body is positioned) through the deep pressure proprioceptive input
  • Calming and focus, stress reduction

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, NDT, sensory motor integration trained (directly from Berta and Karle Bobath), and is experienced with treating a variety of physical disabilities, including the 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.

OTvest-Chinese_man_drinking_from_cupThe most basic, essential, and effective treatment for children, teens and adults with neurogenic disorders who have feeding/swallowing problems is the positioning of the head, trunk and the oral area through symmetrical alignment. The weighted OTvest™ aids in this important first step by symmetrically stabilizing the trunk and head with the use of the unique, patented weight insert that completely surrounds the shoulder-girdle area of the body. The OTvest™ distributes the quilted in, flat weights uniformly across the front and back of the wearer, promoting scapular stability – vital for trunk stabilization. The deep pressure touch therapy that the OTvest™ also provides is monumentally beneficial for calming the wearer.

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

This is similar to stabilizing the ankle 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 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 ensures 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.” (Berry & Foster, 2016)

The soothing, calming deep pressure therapy provided by the weights in the OTvest™ help reduce the stress that can add to the eating difficulty, as well as address the tone issues through increasing trunk stability and postural security. In this way, the OTvest™ can be used as a treatment for stuttering, where improved relaxation and stress reduction can result in a decrease in stuttering.

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™ denim weighted vest because of the unique, patented weight insert. The deep pressure therapy from the strategically placed weights in the OTvest™ can increase kinesthetic body awareness, promote a sense of calm and 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).

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Look for the yellow "OTvest" label on the chest pocket to make sure you are getting the genuine OTvest, which has been providing calming, deep pressure and trunk stability since 2002 with thousands of wearers.


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

Grandin, T. (1992). Calming effects of deep touch pressure in patients with autistic disorder, college students, and animals. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, Vol. 2, 1.

VandenBerg, N., (2001). The use of weighted vests to increase on-task behavior in children with attention difficulties, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 55, 621-628. doi:10.5014/ajot.55.6.621

This research is also in the book, Pediatric Issues in Occupational Therapy: A Compendium of Leading Scholarship (Royeen, 2004) published by AOTA (N. VandenBerg, Chapter 25.)