THE MYO-MUNCHIE FOR THE CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
What does quality of life mean to you? For some, their quality of life may feel
enhanced if they can run the Boston marathon, or if they own that new car, or
by going on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Then, life is good. For others,
quality of life may be improved by just being able to swallow better or chew a
wider variety of foods. For each person, “quality of life” is defined differently.
Greetings! My name is Kay and I have some exciting stories to share about
how the myo-munchie has changed the quality of life for some very special
children who are challenged daily with special needs.
I was introduced to the myo-munchie as a hygienist in our dental practice
about 9 years ago. We used it occasionally, with the supervision of our
dentist, to help correct minor orthodontic problems in young children.
Sometimes we used it with an older child as an “end-of-treatment” stabilizer
to prevent relapse in an ortho case. For the most part, I was just minimally
A few years ago I became a certified Orofacial Myologist, teaching children
how to swallow correctly and eliminating tongue thrust and negative oral
habits, such as thumb sucking and nail biting. Once again, our therapy was
meant to prevent possible orthodontic problems in the future or to prevent
relapse in completed orthodontic treatment.
Three years ago some therapists from a local rehabilitation center became
interested in using the myo-munchie for their patients with special needs.
They soon discovered that it could benefit:
Children with Cerebral Palsy or Down’s Syndrome (abnormal muscle tone)
Children with trouble eating
Children with articulation problems
Children with sensory processing deficits.
As of now, my co-worker Susan and I have introduced nearly 300 children in
our Orofacial Myology practice to the myo-munchie.
Does the myo-munchie work for everyone? No. there are some individuals
with such high oral sensitivity that they will not accept the “large object in the
mouth.” Or, it is just too scary for some to breathe through the nose.
Sometimes we refer them to an allergist to check for the possibility of
impaired nasal breathing.
Could the myo-munchie by tried with everyone? The only contraindication we
have seen is with children who have severe dysphagia, who may have
increased aspiration of saliva due to the increased salivary flow with the
munchie in the mouth. Those children should not be given a munchie.
Should it be tried with everyone? I have seen some fairly severe cases and
sometimes I wonder if it will work. Sometimes it does not. Other times I am
amazed at the persistence of the parent/care-giver and as a result, we see
some fantastic positive changes.
So, let me share just a few of the many changes that we have observed as
therapists over the last two to three years.
(*names of the various patients listed have been changed)
A little girl of 8 comes into our Orofacial Myology office with very low tone in
her facial muscles. She is a mouth breather and has never been able to keep
her lips together. One of her physical therapy exercises is to spend time
swimming, which she loves. But her mother reports that she chokes
frequently, because she can’t keep the water out of her mouth. After a few
months of using the myo, *Shelly comes back with a very excited mother. She
can now keep her lips together, which means no more choking in the pool.
Not only that , if she does get water in her mouth, she can SPIT it out! Her
quality of life? It has just been improved! Would that be so significant in most
people’s lives? No, a small thing to some of us but a BIG thing for Shelly! Her
mother also reported that her speech therapist was noting better articulation.
A delightful young female, age 5, was referred to us by the rehab. center for a
myo-munchie to strengthen her very week masseter (chewing) muscles. She
had been fed on pureed foods all her life and was not gaining weight
properly. She had been diagnosed with “failure to thrive”. After 6 months of
using the myo, about 20 minutes a day, she began to chew solid foods. Do
you know how thrilling it is to have a little girl throw her arms around your
neck and say, “I can eat french fries!”? Her quality of life improved
Katie arrived in our office with a very pronounced open bite due to constant
pacifier use for 9 years. She was not able to bite into any foods properly, but
instead had to try to eat from the sides of her mouth or just forget certain
foods. It took several months for Katie to accept the munchie but the
persistent effort on the part of her parents eventually paid off. At her last
treatment visit (we saw the patient 5 times over a 6 month period), Katie had
closed her bite completely and her parents thanked us for giving her a “pretty
Gloria pushed her 11 year old son into our office more than a year ago.
Danny suffers from a very debilitating case of Cerebral Palsy and can only be
transported in a wheel-chair. His spastic movements prevented him from
closing his mouth for any extended period of time. Their paediatrician was
very concerned about his low weight and a visit to an orthodontist had only
given them the scary news of possible jaw surgery.
Gloria worked off and on with the munchie for months before Danny really
accepted it and before we noticed any changes. Then one day just last week,
they returned for a visit. Danny had gained 25 pounds in the last 3 months!
Gloria said, “The only change has been him using the myo-munchie so that
must have been it!” We could tell as dental professionals that Danny was now
able to close his teeth together which meant he was probably chewing foods
better and therefore had better in-take.