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The Allen School
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Little Rock, AR 72205
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Beckman Oral Motor Assessment

What is the Beckman Oral Motor Assessment?

"Oral motor" has been defined in a variety of ways. Many of the strategies of the 1950's and '60's were primarily stimulation techniques, such as brushing (pressure massage), icing (thermal stimulation), quick stretch (tapping), and vibration (manual and mechanical). These strategies have been used by physical and occupational therapists to prepare a muscle area for movement. These strategies cannot change the range of movement of a muscle or the strength of a muscle without additional muscle movement.

Other oral motor techniques require the individual's cognitive cooperation to follow a command in order to complete a movement. But what if the individual cannot cooperate cognitively, or, due to significant motoric involvement, cannot follow the therapist's verbal directive to "lick your lips," or "move your tongue up toward your nose," or "round and spread your lips?"

Many individuals with impaired oral motor skills are not able to follow a command for oral movement. To better serve such individuals, Debra Beckman has, since 1975, worked to develop these specific interventions which provide assisted movement to activate muscle contraction and to provide movement against resistance to build strength. The focus of these interventions is to increase functional response to pressure and movement, range, strength, variety and control of movement for the lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue. The interventions needed are determined by an assessment, the Beckman Oral Motor Protocol, which uses assisted movement and stretch reflexes to quantify response to pressure and movement, range, strength, variety and control of movement for the lips cheeks, jaw, tongue and soft palate. The assessment is based on clinically defined functional parameters of minimal competence and does not require the cognitive participation of the individual. Because these components of movement are functional, not age specific, the protocol is useful with a wide range of ages (birth to geriatric) and diagnostic categories.


Oral motor skills are critical to basic functions that occur even when we are asleep, such as controlling secretions, swallowing, and maintaining alignment of the oral structures so that breathing is not interrupted. Oral motor skills impact basic survival such as sucking and swallowing by infants that begin by the third month of gestation. Development of these skills enhance the progression from breast milk or formula, then to pureed foods, and on to table foods, as well as the skills needed to progress from sucking a nipple, to using a wide variety of utensils, including straws, cups, spoons, and forks.

Oral skills also impact the control needed for speech development, from producing the cooing sounds as an infant, to articulating complex words in conversational speech. Poor oral motor skills can result in delayed or reduced skill development for the areas listed above. The individual may be described as hypersensitive, a lazy talker or a picky or messy eater. Problems such a drooling, bruxism (tooth grinding) and gagging may occur.