Tagged "Annabelle's Monthly Updates"

3 Years 8&9 Months: She is reading!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

3 Years 8 Months

Belle got her palatal expander out this month! Her "princess jewelry," as we referred to it, was in for a total of six months. Even though her speech didn't improve as substantially as I had hoped, it was still a success overall. Belle proudly states, "me got my princess jewelry out and me talk better."

As I mentioned last month, we have tried to take Belle back to some basics in regards to exercises so we can make 100% sure that we have the groundwork laid out correctly. At the single word level, there are many many words that Belle can say very clearly, just as a typical child would who does not have speech challenges. So, this is a big win! Belle still speaks mostly in phrases or short sentences, however, we are getting at least one sentence with 6-7-8 words in daily!

Since it is summer time, our schedule is completely out of whack. Now, all my kids are home, and I do not have any alone time with Belle. So... for the past few days, I have had Belle's 5 year old big brother join in the TalkTools fun. Both of the kids are enjoying the camaraderie of it all. (We will see how long this lasts ;)).

In the video this month, I thought I would show Belle reading some of the personalized books that I have made for her. She knows 100+ sight words so I have used some of these words in her books. There may be several words that you don't understand, but hopefully you will pick up on a few of them. Enjoy! 

Here are a few recent pictures including one of Belle at the dentist. She is the best patient ever, seriously.

3 years 8 months a 3 years 8 months b

3 Years 9 Months

Summer break is in full swing at our house! While we have been enjoying our more flexible schedule, our "routine" is completely out of whack. A lack of schedule can be a good and a bad thing. The best aspect of it all is that Belle's big brother, Burke (age 5), is home more and has been joining in the fun. He loves it!!! Belle and Burke do the oral exercises together and it has added a lot more enthusiasm (and orneriness) into "TalkTools time" at our house.

Although I am not witnessing huge gains in Belle's articulation when she goes into lengthy comments or requests, I am hearing improvements in some single words such as "dog, sock, dock, puppy, etc." I am confident that we are on the right path with TalkTools. Belle has so much to say and I want for her to be understood, so badly. A big shout out to Liz Smithson, our TalkTools speech therapist, who is so patient with us as we work through ups and downs in our "routine."

This video is of Belle working on an alphabet puzzle. I had asked her to tell me what the letter name was as well as the sound that it makes. It is a lengthy video but we had to finish the entire alphabet, of course! :D

And here are a few recent pics:

TalkTools | Annabelle 3.9 years TalkTools | Annabelle 3.9 years 3 years 9 months c

Have a great day!

-Lanie Beetsma

Annabelle has Down Syndrome and has been using TalkTools Therapy since she was born. Her story is a great inspiration for parents seeking help for a child with Down Syndrome. Follow Miss Annabelle’s journey from the beginning here.

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3 Years 6&7 Months: What "work" looks like

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

3 Years 6 Months

3 years 6 months a 3 years 6 months b 3 years 6 months c 3 years 6 months d

This month I decided to include videos of Belle doing her oral motor exercises. They are not super exciting videos, but that's what "work" looks like sometimes. I know we have to put in the time to see the results. And as I have said so many times previously, it's absolutely worth it! At times her progress with certain exercises may seem slow, but then I will refer back to old videos and can't believe how far she has come! For example, in the videos you will see her use the green tool (the Tongue Tip Lateralization Tool). It has a small metal ball that slides on a wire. When we first started using this, she was asked just to bite down and find the ball with the tip of her tongue. Our next progression was to bite down and move the ball from the front to the back. Now, she is working to move the ball from the front to the back and then stop it in the middle. I think it's pretty cool that she can do it! It takes some concentration for sure. You can also see her work with Bite Blocks.

Belle is continuing to express herself in all areas. She recently had her first dance recital where she got to perform "I'm a little teapot" with approximately 30 other preschoolers. We also just returned from a family vacation to the beach. Belle absolutely loves the beach.

3 Years 7 Months
3 years 7 months b


I have enjoyed witnessing Belle’s ornery personality take center stage this month. There has been numerous times where her quick wit has surprised me. “You have chocolate? Me love chocolate.” It’s not always this sweet though. She also has some goofy names to call people, with the worst being “you a bo bo face ghost.” When she calls you that, you know it’s bad J. Actually, she says it to be playful and then she wants you to chase her.

Her vocalizations have not slowed down in any way. She is full of things to say constantly, unless she gets in trouble and then, it’s pure silence until she comes around to say “sorry.”

In regards to our oral motor therapy program, we have started working with Liz Smithson at TalkTools. We are excited for this partnership and look forward to many great things ahead. We have made a few modifications to our exercises and are going to work on perfecting some of Belle’s basic sounds. Since our ultimate goal is clear speech, we have to make sure the basic fundamentals are in place before we can go on to the more challenging sounds. Even though it’s not always fun to take a step back or sideways, I do know it’s for the best. Annabelle’s speech has gotten away from her in a way. She talks quickly and goes on and on and on. So, we need to slow her down and take a good look at the building blocks of it all.

In the video this month, I have included Belle working on some speech worksheets. You may understand some or most of what she is saying in the video but now we are breaking it down to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle are in place… the lips, the jaw, the posture, the tongue, etc.

In other news, Belle gets her palatal expander out next month! Hopefully this will mean less slobber and better articulation!!!


-Lanie Beetsma

Annabelle has Down Syndrome and has been using TalkTools Therapy since she was born. Her story is a great inspiration for parents seeking help for a child with Down Syndrome. Follow Miss Annabelle’s journey from the beginning here.

Read more →

3 Years 4&5 Months: Eating properly

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

3 Years 4 Months


3 years 4 months

Here are Miss Belle at 3 years 4 months. I think her dental appliance is making her smile change a bit. The cape that she is wearing has been a daily staple in her wardrobe for the past few weeks.

During our TalkTools session last week with Whitney, I told her I was running out of ideas for videos for the blog and ask if there is anything she would like to see me include. She mentioned that it would be good if I could show Belle eating. Eating? Okay. That's easy enough.

A few days after my conversation with Whitney, I was fortunate to be around a fabulous small group of young kiddos with Down syndrome. We all had lunch together. It was then that it made sense to me why Whitney had asked me to take a video of Belle eating. I had forgotten what a challenge this can be for some people. Thank you Whitney and thank you TalkTools!!!!! I am confident that Belle would not have her current level of eating skills without this program.

Eating properly isn't something I think of much anymore and certainly take for granted the fact that Belle eats well and correctly, for the most part. Eating has been, however, a HUGE part of our TalkTools program for three years. As our program has evolved, we have progressed through other exercises and don't focus on the direct feeding elements quite as much. As a parent, I am thankful that Belle has achieved a level of eating technique that is appropriate. Of course, she has room for improvement, but I know we are on the right track. See for yourself:

3 Years 5 Months

Belle is now "just shy" of the 3 and a half year mark. It's hard to believe that we started with TalkTools 3 years ago. Time flies when you are having fun, right?

Belle is doing very well. She still loves to talk. She is saying new phrases or short 4-5 word sentences on a daily basis. Looking back on today, some of her new thoughts included: "Mommy, me big girl fork!," "Daddy washed me. Thanks Daddy," and "Ooww, you scraped my leg, right there." I also overheard her tell her dolls: "Go Costa Rica, eat broccoli, cauliflower, and chicken and rice."

At times, Belle does get frustrated if I don't understand what she is trying to tell me. I will shake my head and appear to agree with her, but she reads right through me. She totally knows if I am comprehending her stories, thoughts, and requests.

In regards to her medical status, Belle continues to have lots of nasal drainage and congestion. She was on a round of antibiotics this month which helped for a little while, but all of her drainage is back again now. She also still has her palatal expander in place, but hopefully we will be getting that out in the next few months. The palatal expander has helped to correct her cross bite (a.k.a. under bite). However, this will not be the end of her dental needs. Most likely, she will need another expander again in future years, but it should help encourage better jaw alignment in the short term.

TalkTools | Annabelle 4.5 years 3 years 5 months b 3 years 5 months c 

-Lanie Beetsma

Annabelle has Down Syndrome and has been using TalkTools Therapy since she was born. Her story is a great inspiration for parents seeking help for a child with Down Syndrome. Follow Miss Annabelle’s journey from the beginning here.

Read more →

3 Years 2&3 Months: Getting Independent

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

3 Years 2 Months

Hi everyone!

We are now in full swing with our new updated oral motor program that was revamped by Whitney last month. We also were able to meet this month so we could ensure that I am implementing the exercises correctly for Belle. We have progressed to some higher level activities which are fun for both Belle and I. We enjoy working on new goals! Belle continues to strive towards having more independence in many areas of her life. This also carries over to all her TalkTools work. She wants to hold the tools without my help and do the work on her timeline, not mine. Oh, the joys of toddlerhood!

I do want to note that Belle's doctor has recommended that we take all dairy and gluten products out of her diet completely. This is in response to a recent thorough lab workup. We are hopeful that this will help clear up her constant drainage. We were pretty skeptical at first, as change is always hard, but have already witnessed improvements in the past 10 days!

TalkTools | Annabelle 3.2 years 3 years 2 months b TalkTools | tongue tip tools

Below are a two quick videos of Miss Belle. The first includes a new TalkTools tool that we have been using for the past month: the Tongue Tip Lateralization & Elevation Tools. We have progressed from biting down and finding the ball to biting down and moving the ball from front to back. It is a work in progress  The other video is just for fun. It shows Belle saying some of the sounds that various letters of the alphabet make.

3 Years 3 Months

Belle thoroughly enjoyed all the excitement this Christmas season*. She LOVED Santa Claus and retold the story of how she got to sit on "Ho Ho's" lap several times. Her favorite gifts included a Frozen robe, lunchbox, and new dance clothes. Although her month turned out well overall, it began with strep throat and croup. After nearly three weeks of fighting those germs, I think she is finally feeling better. Even though her nose has been congested all month, we are continuing with her gluten and dairy free diet as I do believe this was helping prior to her illnesses.

3 years 3 months a 3 years 3 months b TalkTools | Annabelle 3.3 years

In regards to her speech, Belle is continuing to say new words daily. For the past few years, I have known that her receptive language is strong. Now, she has the ability and skills to attempt to say many of those words that she has known for so long. Even though her articulation is not perfect, it's great to hear her increase her vocabulary. I lost track a long time ago (around the 200 word mark), but I know that she has well over 300 words that she uses on a regular basis. In addition to her increase in word usage, she is also doing MUCH better at putting the ending sounds on words ie. hammock, cat, house, Burke, elf, etc etc. I will admit that we have slacked off on our oral motor exercises a bit through the holidays and look forward to getting back on track next week!

Below are 3 videos of Belle doing some of her oral motor exercises. I like these videos this month because they show the "real" work that goes into working toward the goal of clearer speech. It's not glamorous, and it's not always easy. We get sidetracked, we get interrupted, and we get frustrated at times. But, it's all worth it. I truly mean it. This is a process that gets us closer to Belle being able to fully express her thoughts, feelings and needs. She has so many great things to share, and I am so thankful to TalkTools for helping us to better communicate with our sweet big girl, Belle!

-Lanie Beetsma

Annabelle has Down Syndrome and has been using TalkTools Therapy since she was born. Her story is a great inspiration for parents seeking help for a child with Down Syndrome. Follow Miss Annabelle’s journey from the beginning here.

* This update was written last Winter. 

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3 Years & 3 Years 1 Month: Happy Birthday, Little Fire Cracker!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

3 Years

She is 3! Happy birthday to this little fire cracker.

3 years b 3 years a 3 years c 3 years d

Belle has MANY nicknames around our house including Beezy, Boppy, B-Belle, Belldozer, and Bops. She is very used to her nicknames and answers to all of them graciously . The nickname that I have been calling her lately, however, is Chatty Cathy. Three years ago I would have never believed that I would be calling her this. I did not believe that "chatty" would be ever be on my list of words to describe her. I will add a disclaimer to this by stating that she is not easily understood, especially if she breaks into long drawn out stories which can be minutes in length. If I have an idea of the subject matter, I can kind of follow along, but if not, I am lost. I remind her to slow down quite often as well as ask her a question about what she is talking about so I can try to catch on.

Although Belle's longer stories are harder to understand, many of her single words are improving in articulation. During our last session with Whitney from TalkTools, Belle was resistant to working on a particular speech app. Whitney suggested moving her into the next difficulty level and that has helped tremendously. It is more interesting to her and she is doing much better. In addition, Belle has improved dramatically with her current horn level. See for yourself:

I do want to add that Belle had a dental appliance called a "quad helix" attached less than a week ago. It is attached to her molars and we go back to the dentist's office every four weeks for adjustment. The goal of the appliance is to widen her upper jaw to eliminate her under bite. She has done really well with it, and it hasn't slowed down her speech in any way.

Cheers to a fabulous three years! I can't wait to see what is in store for this little gal!

3 Years 1 Month

Attached are some recent pictures including Belle playing with some neighbor cats, finishing up her first ever dance class, and having fun with Whitney Pimentel, our TalkTools guru

TalkTools | Annabelle 3 Years 3 years 1 month b 3 years 1 month c

Our month started out on a great note as we were able to meet Whitney Pimentel, our TalkTools Speech-Language Pathologist, for a full evaluation. Whitney allowed us lots of time to cover all the areas of Belle's oral motor abilities, concerns, and areas where improvement is needed. Belle had a fun time too! We were able to update her complete program and learn about new tools and tactile cues to encourage appropriate sound expression.

When Belle slows down, her articulation is improving. When she talks quickly, she seems to lack in skills that isolate her jaw, lips, and tongue muscles effectively.

Belle's dental appliance is still in place so we have some additional drool, as well as a chronic runny nose that doesn't help her breathing ability either. Even with these challenging factors, her progress remains steady. We will get there! It is definitely a journey. Belle's spirit and tenacity for better articulation remains strong. She loves to talk and has so much to say. She has lots of energy and wants to chit chat all the time. She keeps me on my toes!

-Lanie Beetsma

Annabelle has Down Syndrome and has been using TalkTools Therapy since she was born. Her story is a great inspiration for parents seeking help for a child with Down Syndrome. Follow Miss Annabelle’s journey from the beginning here.

Read more →