Tagged "Annabelle's Progress"


4.10 & 4.11 Years: Helping other Down Syndrome parents

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

4 Years 10 Months

Greetings from Lanie and Belle!

Belle has thoroughly enjoyed her summer with trips to her grandma's house, county fairs, baseball games, two big new cities, and a vacation in the mountains. While her routine has been anything but routine, her mind has certainly been busy with some new experiences to chat about. 

While talking with a fellow mom who had a few questions about TalkTools, I put Belle on the phone for a quick hello at the end of our call. I told Belle to tell our new friend what she was doing today and she said, "watching the Royals and I am going to marry Eric Hosmer." Hosmer is one of Belle's favorite players on the KC Royals team, and her statement reinforces the fact that she has watched slightly too much baseball this summer!!!

TalkTools | Annabelle 4.10 years TalkTools | Annabelle 4.10 years TalkTools | Annabelle 4.10 years

Here is a quick video we did on lip isolation using a tongue depressor:

4 Years 11 Months

Belle is back to school! She is attending a new preschool this year and is in the Pre-K program. She will start kindergarten in one year, the fall of 2018 (this is hard to believe.) Belle is in a class with 14 other students, all typical kiddos, and two teachers. So far, she is loving it! She loves attending the same school as her older siblings and enjoys snack time and the monkey bars at recess. ;)

Here is a video update showing how Belle is doing in eating and drinking (she uses straw #6 from TalkTools straw hierarchy).

About once a week, I have the privilege of hearing from a parent who has watched Belle's videos and has questions about TalkTools, Belle's development, etc. I truly enjoy helping as much as I can and sharing our experience. I remember when Belle was born, I really found a great deal of comfort in talking with and learning from parents who were just a little ahead of us in this journey. It helped me to know that I was not alone and that success stories are absolutely achievable.

I am sharing this because people ask me quite frequently about what I do to support Belle's speech and overall development. And as most of you know there are SO many programs, vitamins, protocols, therapies, educational curriculums, physical practices, etc. to choose from. It was actually quite overwhelming for me, especially when Belle was a baby, but I have tried many of them over the years. When parents ask me what I think has made the biggest difference for Belle, I say "her siblings, an active lifestyle with lots of input, and TalkTools."

I believe that Belle's siblings are her greatest teachers. Our life is full of activities, sporting events, family gatherings, school, etc., and I believe that this provides lots of fresh input for her brain. And lastly, I believe that TalkTools has allowed Belle to develop her oral motor coordination so she can communicate with others. And for that, I am forever grateful.

TalkTools | Annabelle 4.11 Years TalkTools | Annabelle 4.11 Years TalkTools | Annabelle 4.11 Years

-Lanie Beetsma

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

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4 Years 1 Month: working on speech accuracy and clarity

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

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We love working with Monica at TalkTools! She is full of knowledge and experience. When a speech issue comes up with Belle, and I am viewing it as a really big problem that we are going to be stuck on forever, Monica handles it so gracefully and gives me hope. She has years of experience with oral motor therapy issues so I feel like she has "seen it all." Nothing seems to surprise her and no problem is too big to address. I really appreciate and value those qualities about her.

Belle is continuing to speak in phrases and short sentences. She will throw out a 6-8 word sentence on a daily basis as well. One of our goals in our TalkTools program is to increase the accuracy and clarity of Belle's sentences. Often times, Belle will talk in phrases or will omit words. So, we are working with her to say all the appropriate words in a sentence she makes up. We highlight Belle practicing this in the video this month. She is doing well!

Below is Belle's video this month. It includes Annabelle putting sentences together while describing "verb" pictures I put together for her (with the help of her sister!). And at the end you will see Belle singing her ABCs nicely!

-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 →

Happy Birthday Belle!!! 4 and starting preschool!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Belle is 4! It's crazy to believe that we just celebrated her 4th birthday. This little gal is full of life, and we are so proud of her. Belle also started preschool this month. She goes three mornings per week, and is in a class with 11 other students, all of whom are typical kiddos. She is off to a really good start to her school year. Belle is always excited to go when I drop her off, and then after school she can usually tell me about 3-4 things about her morning- "played on the playground outside at recess, had animal crackers for snack, sang songs, and read a book." Those are some common recaps that I get. I am hopeful that the rest of the year goes as smoothly as her first 3 weeks!

TalkTools | Annabelle 4 years

In addition to TalkTools, our local school district has also encouraged us to start speech therapy this year once a week for 30 minutes. This is really the first time that Belle has done "traditional" speech therapy. This experience has really opened my eyes and has served as a great reminder that TalkTools is amazing!! I am so glad that we have worked with this program for the past 4 years. I am confident that Belle would not be communicating at her current level if we would have solely followed the traditional therapy models. This is not to say that traditional speech therapy is not beneficial; I think that Belle will learn some things along the way for sure. However, the oral motor piece that TalkTools provides has been key for us. It has been the key to Belle's success. One of the areas that we are really focusing on in Belle's oral motor program with TalkTools is the need for proper tongue positioning for her N, D, T , and S sounds. Too often her tongue wants to stay pinned to the bottom of her mouth and come forward when she is making these sounds. It is a work in progress. In addition, Belle is working on verbalizing every word in her sentences. Many times she wants to skip over certain words because it is easier for her and she lacks some motor planning in certain areas. For example, she may say, "I call daddy," instead of "I want to call daddy." Overall, I feel like we are moving in the right direction with this, even though some days are better than others. Cheers to you Miss Belle for a great year ahead!

-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 10&11 Months: Getting back-to-school after Disney World magic

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

3 Years 10 Months

Summer continues in our household! This month, Belle has enjoyed swimming lessons (and lots of pool time), a slip'n slide party, BBQs, fairs, a trip to the lake, and a full week at Walt Disney World! While our hearts may be full, our routine is not. :) However... Belle continues to do well, even though we have not devoted an adequate amount of time to our oral motor exercises. Her vocabulary is increasing steadily and so is her usage of full sentences. I used to keep a list of the words she uses, but I gave that up months ago. I would estimate that she has a voluntary verbal vocabulary of 600-800 words. Today at lunch she said, "Papa, can I have the honey please?" Other recent examples of sentences include statements such as "I am taller. I am a big kid now." and "I am Annabelle Kate. I am three and my birthday is September 13th. I live in Chillicothe, Missouri. My mom is Lanie and my dad is Brad."

A highlight of our month was getting to meet up with Monica Purdy, a TalkTools speech therapist and instructor, while we were in Disney World. Talk about fabulous service! Monica braved the crowds, heat, and her tight schedule to come work with us at Hollywood Studios. Although this was her first time meeting Monica, Belle worked hard and had a lot of fun too. We discovered some areas that we really need to focus on as we get back into our routine next month.

I am thrilled with Belle's development.  Thank you TalkTools for helping Belle find her voice! We love exploring life with her!

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And here is a playful conversation with Belle as she was heading to bed a few weeks ago, before we went to Disney World. (Sneak peek: "What do you want to do when you grow up? -This tall!" )

3 Years 11 Months

I will start with the good news! The good news is that Belle's older siblings are back in school so we are settling back into a routine with our oral motor exercises. My goal is to complete our TalkTools program four times per week. I am not sure if this will be 100% sufficient, but I do know that seven days per week is an unrealistic goal for us. Being back on track feels oh so good.

The bad news is that I don't think Belle's speech clarity has improved much this month. She is continuing to verbalize consistently throughout the day and is even coming up with some new clever thoughts and observations. However, I believe her articulation in phrases and short sentences is at a stand still. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. I will get to the obvious one first and that is our crazy, inconsistent summer schedule that messed up our oral motor exercise routine. I take full responsibility for this. The second reason is that Belle has been fighting a cold for this entire month and is completely congested. She is mouth breathing, slobbering a bit, and is feeling under the weather. I am hopeful that she gets cleared up soon.

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Here is our video this month of Belle working on her numbers to 20 with a puzzle as a visual aid for counting.

Cheers to back to school! Have a great weekend,

-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 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.

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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:

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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.

Read more →
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