Ask A Therapist: Eliminating a Non-Nutritive Suckle

Assessment and Treatment of the Jaw, jaw book, non-nutritive suck, Non-Nutritive Suckle, nutrition, straw hierarchy, suckle, tmj

I have a client that has a non-nutritive suck that he uses often during therapy activities. Not always for calming purposes. How do I eliminate this?

Suckling is used for calming, but also to organize the body by providing stimulation to the temporomandibular joint. Because there are more nerves going through the TMJ than any other joint in the human body, when the jaw muscles are weak and the jaw is not moving in a normal pattern for feeding and/or speech, children may develop or rely on non-nutritive suckling to provide the desired feedback. We often think children use the suckle for the way it feels on the tongue, but it is generally used for how it feels in the TMJ.

First, determine if weak jaw muscles are the causative factor in the habitual suckling pattern. In the TalkTools book and DVD Assessment and Treatment of the Jaw, I teach how to assess jaw skill levels and offers numerous activities to improve those skills. Each activity in the book or DVD can be used as an alternative to the non-nutritive suckle.

Second, the TalkTools Straw Hierarchy would be helpful in replacing the suckle by teaching the child how to suck. A suckle is a two directional movement, while a suck is only used in retraction and retraction is what is needed for standard speech clarity.
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