QUESTION:

I have a 2-year-old little boy that I work with that loves to lick everything, including my clothes when I am working, with him. He taps his fingers on his tongue, licks every toy initially, then continuously during play. At times, he also bites down on his tongue so hard it turns blue. I gave the family a chewy tube, and we have worked with a Z-Vibe for vibration input. Some days he is okay with it; some days he does not want anything to do with it. I understand that in part this is how he is learning about his environment, so I am not sure if I should do more to intervene. What would you suggest to help decrease this behavior and help him meet his oral sensory needs?

Answer:

It definitely sounds like this little guy is under-responsive to oral input. In addition to the Z-Vibe and chewy toys, here are some things to try:

  • sour candy spray (find it in the checkout aisle at grocery stores)
  • spicy foods, such as jalapeno cheese sticks, crackers dipped in salsa
  • crunchy and chewy foods
  • blowing games
  • drinking yogurt through a straw
  • deep pressure to the cheeks and lips and gentle oral stretches (Beckman Techniques if you know them)

Is he a good eater? If not, it might be because he simply doesn’t know where the food is in his mouth. The sour spray might help to wake up his mouth.

Because he is so little, I would start by offering alerting oral input (such as listed above) once every 20 or 30 minutes.

I would start intervening with consequences, too, unless he has a significant cognitive delay. The purpose isn’t punishment, rather just to encourage him to find more appropriate ways to meet his sensory needs. An appropriate consequence would be to require him to clean whatever he licks to get the germs off. He could use a damp washcloth or a wipe. After he cleans say, “No licking. Yucky. Use your hands instead.”

I hope that helps! Keep me posted.

Best wishes,
Gwen