Ask a Therapist: Tongue Protrusion When Drinking From A Cup

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am a speech and language therapist working in the UK. I had the TalkTools training a couple of years back.I assessed a child last week taking over from another therapist who has just left. This child was advised to drink thick and thin fluids from a thick straw (McDonald’s thickness). The child can drink thin fluids easily from straw #7 but has not had any success with straw #8. I observed the child with the thick fluid from a thick straw and they managed really well. When drinking from a cup with no straw there was still notable tongue protrusion. I am not quite sure where to move this child on? Should we move to straw #8 (thin fluids) and continue with thick fluids from a thicker straw? Should you be continuing on the straw hierarchy until there is efficient tongue retraction when drinking from an open cup? I would appreciate some guidance.

Best wishes,


Hi Melissa,

I would continue on the next straw if she is drinking at ease with tongue retraction as you said. I would want to use the straws for all drinking attempts and minimize the use of the cup. I would work on activities that promote tongue retraction before working on the cup. This will reinforce the motor plan.  I would then make sure to place the cup under her tongue and prevent her from using her tongue as her lower lip.  If this is not working you may want to remove the cup for a short time and work only with the straw and then revisit the cup.  Giving the child a break and only reinforcing the tongue retraction may help.

It is possible for a child to continue demonstrating tongue protrusion with cup drinking after the straw protocol but I would consider that atypical.

Keep me posted and let me know if you have any other questions.


Elizabeth Smithson, MSP, CCC-SLP

Elizabeth Smithson, MSP, CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has over 10 years of professional experience working with infants, children, adolescents and adults. She earned her Master of Speech Pathology at the University of South Carolina. Liz is also a Level 5 TalkTools® Trained Therapist. She has received specialized training in Oral Placement Therapy, Speech, Feeding, Apraxia, Sensory Processing Disorders, and PROMPT©. Liz works with clients with a wide range of disabilities including Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  She works through her own private practice Elizabeth Smithson Therapy, LLC in the home setting and in the TalkTools® office in Charleston, SC.

Talktool admin 09 Feb 17