Ask A Therapist: Tongue Retraction


I’m beginning to work with a 7 year old boy with Down Syndrome and Apraxia. For the straws, he protrudes his tongue under the straw. He also does this with the Honey Bear. His Mom says she has a verbal cue of “fishy kiss” which will help him to round lips, and tongue will retract.

He also does the horns. He mastered #1 today 🙂 ! We’re also working with chewy tubes. Red is great, compressions become weaker with yellow. Bubbles are still needing cueing with the blue apraxia tube to get the lips rounded. He has a lot of force, but his lower lip protrudes and elevates and all of his air is directed up instead of out. It’s getting better.

Is there something else I should be doing to get that tongue to the right position for straw drinking?

Thank you,


Hi Meredith,

Great question regarding tongue retraction. The straw kit will work on tongue retraction at different levels of the tongue. It is important to have your patient work through the whole straw kit to achieve the retraction. It is also important to note that he does not have to demonstrate tongue retraction with straw drinking until he reaches straw #5. I do think using the “fishy kiss” verbal prompt before offering the straw is a great idea to set him up for the right movement pattern on the straw.   As far as the bubbles, try using the toothette with vibration as a sensory warm up right before the bubble activity. This should help him to achieve lip rounding more at mid-line without the upward movement he is demonstrating. Then I would transition immediately to using the green bubble tube that comes in the kit for blowing bubbles. Attempt blowing bubbles with this tube and see if that helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I hope this all helps. Thanks,

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 11 Jan 16