It’s your classic Mexican stand-off of the speech pathology kind. You want to look inside a kid’s mouth and get them to perform a couple of simple oral motor movements as part of your articulation assessment but it appears that they have come down with that elusive ‘spontaneous lockjaw’ syndrome. The more you probe “c’mon,open your mouth”, the tighter their little lips press.
So the way I see it, you have a few options. Because let’s face it, we pride ourselves on getting people to open their mouths for us, right?
The ThroatScope is not just an amazing tool for seeing into mouth cavities. It’s magic. It’s a Star Wars lightsaber. It’s a fairy or wizard’s wand. Ask them to look in mummy’s mouth, then your mouth. Let them be in control. Tell them that the ‘wand’ has superpowers and let’s you see what they had for breakfast. In Australia I’d say ‘Weetbix’ or ‘toast with Vegemite’. When I worked in the USA I had to seriously increase my breakfast vocabulary to include ‘Pop Tarts’ and ‘Cheerios’. If you don’t guess what they had on the first few tries, ask them to see if they can find what you had and then rave on about their magical powers when they say ‘ice-cream’.
Get cheeky. It’s a great way to win kids over. I love telling my kids that we’re going to do some funny things with our mouths and that they are not allowed to tell Daddy or show Mummy. The first thing I ask them to do is to stick their tongue out. I ask them this on purpose as this is typically something that they are NOT allowed to do. I might even tell mum to close her eyes so that she can’t see. They will then do anything you ask of them because you are their cheeky partner in mischief…
GET TECHY WITH THEM
Sometimes just the sight of an iPad turns a kid like putty in your fingertips. I love even just turning the camera on in selfie mode so that they can see themselves and copy my mouth movements. I also have a set of Oral Motor Cards in an iPad friendly version so that they can swipe and copy the pictures to their hearts content. Getting parent’s phones out and taking pictures as you go can also be a really engaging way as that phone can be something that they don’t get to play with often. Have any apps with cute filters? These can be big hits as kids just LOVE looking at themselves. Snapchat have ones that enhance certain articulators and kids will do anything just to see what happens.
RELATE TO THEM
‘Move your tongue from side to side’ can sound weird to a little one. They might give you that suspicious ‘what are you going to do to my tongue’ look. So turn your instructions into something that the child knows. Animals are the first thing that comes to mind. I love using animal hand puppets for these – and if you have one with a moveable tongue, even better! I’ll ask them to copy the animal such as ’open your mouth like the crocodile’. Now, some kids are terrified of puppets, so just simple visuals, cards or animal figurines do just as well. Apart from animals, use their imagination, interests and toys. For lip protrusion I ask them to blow out candles on a cake/pretend to blow bubbles/make funny fish lips. Sometimes asking parents what their kids are interested in can get your ideas flowing as you enact football or fairy scenes! If you’re looking for a simple set of cards (see the froggy picture below), then check out my Oral Motor Cards from my store.
May all mouths open for you from here on!