Oral Motor Development - Stewart Home & School

Oral Motor Development

What exactly is “oral motor development” and why is it important?

written by Art Therapy Instructor Jennifer Anderson

Usually the term “oral motor development” refers to the use and function of the lips, jaw, teeth, tongue, soft palate and hard palate. Each part has to work together properly to perform tasks successfully (think eating, drinking). When those tasks are not performed properly, oral motor therapy may be necessary.

Oral motor therapy uses different types of exercises to develop awareness, strength, mobility and coordination of the oral muscles. While one might think that speech disorders are, in fact, an oral motor development issue, apparently using oral motor therapy for speech disorders is somewhat controversial.  There is no current research that supports oral motor therapy for speech disorders, however, many speech therapists still use this type of therapy with their clients.

Our Art Project

With all of that fun stuff being said, we had a great time in art therapy last week using our oral motor skills to make some really beautiful “artwork with an edge”. We began our activity using some straws and cups with a little water in them. We needed to make sure students understood the difference between sucking and blowing. Since we were using dye for our project, even though it was non-toxic, I wanted to make sure no one ended up sucking up some dye.

After practicing (everyone did a great job!) we began our project. We used regular watercolor paper for our artwork and then I went around and poured some dye onto the watercolor paper. The students had a great time blowing the dye in different directions on their paper. We figure out it was easier to turn the paper instead of trying to change directions when trying to get the dye to go where we wanted it to. As you can see by the pictures, they are really interesting and unique to look at and do seem to have kind of an “edge” to them.


For more information: http://www.asha.org/


Stewart Home & School is a residential school for people of all ages with special needs. The mission of Stewart Home & School is the complete and total care of its students and the fulfillment of all their needs – physical, educational, social, vocational and spiritual. The faculty of the school program has experience with the learning styles of people with Autism, Down’s syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and Williams syndrome, as well as other intellectual disability diagnoses.  It is the objective of the school program to create successful learning experiences for all students and to consistently reinforce the students’ enthusiastic motivation for participation and further growth.  There are high expectations for each individual and it is a joy to see successes celebrated each day!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *