Verbal apraxia and long meal times?

 The below linked post on "Static Vox" is amazingly insightful.  If you know a child or adult on the spectrum (or suspected) who has some speaking difficulties or inconsistencies along with clumsiness, weakness, or motor delays, you could probably gain some insight, as I just did, about their struggles. 
Link: Behavior in young children with speech disorders of motor planning

Awhile back, I had begun to suspect that hypotonality and maybe motor planning had a lot to do with why Orangeboy eats so very slowly and takes so long to chew and swallow food. After reading the post by StatMama, I'm more convinced than ever. Orangeboy has been labeled mildly hypotonal and he has some speaking issues.  He reacts just as Statmama says, in that he doesn't like noisy crowds, stammers and switches words around even though he tests way above his grade level in reading and vocabulary, clams up at times, or gets excessively frustrated when asked to repeat himself.   I think all this is related to why he chews slow and takes awhile to swallow and takes tiny bites or bites that are too big.

I have sat there, at a restaurant, for half an eternity watching Orangeboy eat and wondering why it took him so long to get the food down.  I admit I have remarked to him a bit sarcastically that he needs to be aware that he does have teeth which he can use to chew the food.  When he chews he seems to be moving his jaw in a sort of half-slack fashion like a cow chewing cud.

I remember a time when I was huddled in a booth in an eating establishment that seemed to have one vent, pointed at me, through which all the cold air from the giant compressor on the roof was being blasted.   Before I slipped into a hypothermic coma, I gritted my teeth and begged Orangeboy to "CHEW! then swallow! CHEW! then swallow!  Pl-eee-eeease!!!
I don't want to take him away from his food before he is finished because he is so thin.  On the other hand, at home, it is not unusual for him to stay at the table eating for half an hour or longer after everyone else has finished and left.  This means the rest of his family is usually faced with the challenge of a long after-meal conversation time whenever we eat out.  It is not that unusual for our server to stop by a couple of times to make sure "everything is all right" and then for the manager to do the same. From their perspective they have a table of five staying way past their expected allotment of time, with four of them looking like they are in the first hour of a sit-in protest.

Unfortunately, the Static Vox post, while it gives me more insight and sympathy into Orangeboy's situation, does not give me much hope that eating out will ever again become the "grabbing a fast bite" event that it used to be.   It's probably better for our digestion this way.   But if you are waiting for a table for five to free up, and you see a skinny boy with a coppery head of hair, you might want to take a chill pill.


  1. Actually, there is hope! There are little exercises that can be done to help strengthen the oral and facial muscles. We use kazoos, blowing bubbles, have our son drink from a sippy cup or use a straw - basically any activity which brings awareness to and utilizes the muscles involved in eating and speaking.

    Transitioning from step 1 baby food, which has no solids in it at all, to the stage 2 baby food, was a nightmare. Our son coughed, gagged, and resisted with disgust even the foods which he loved in stage 1 form. It seemed anything that was not liquid or mush resulted in a huge mess and an even bigger tantrum.

    When we finally got him to accept solid foods, we began the battle with bite sizes. He either ate tiny bites that were almost ineffective in terms of consuming the food, or he took bites so big he would gag himself or have to spit the food back out. While we still struggle some, it is most definitely improving. Meal times are not lighning quick by any means, but time is improving with effort...and lots and lots of patience :)

  2. Thanks StatMama. You are right and we have done most of those things. Orangeboy has actually made a huge amount of progress over the years. He is now almost 11 years old. He used to gag on so many things and he actually does eat faster than he used to. He tested out of speech therapy in third grade but he still sounds a little "funny" and gets locked up sometimes.

  3. Anonymous1/7/10

    So glad to see that your blog back up -- it disappeared for a short time and I feared it was gone for good. I love your humor!


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