Tagged "communication"

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 →

2 Years 10&11 Months: Five Word Phrases!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

2 Years 10 Months

Summer has gotten the best of us, in a good way. We have been busy with family reunions, lake trips, and a long road trip to a beach vacation. Belle enjoyed each of these adventures immensely, but I have to admit that we have not been consistent with our oral motor exercises this month. With that being said, Belle continues to be very chatty and has some new favorite words and phrases including "boat, beach, snack, dinner ready," and "my turn"!

In addition to our adventures, we have also been potty training. I thought Belle would slow down in her speech since I have been pushing this pretty hard but she hasn't. We have been working on day training for one month now and she is doing really well. "Potty, pee pee, and poopy" are, of course, frequent words in her vocabulary as well (as is "no no Mommy!").

Here are some recent pictures of Miss Belle, and pictures that include Annabelle's big sister Lyla doing their "mean, sad, and excited" faces.

2 years 10 months a square 2 years 10 months b square 2 years 10 months c square 2 years 10 months d square 2 years 10 months e square 2 years 10 months f square

And here is Belle chatting, singing and counting with me one evening before bed.

2 Years 11 Months


How is it possible that Miss Belle will be turning 3 next month? I think she has made great strides during her second year of life. Her vocalizations have really come on strong, which is probably her biggest accomplishment (in my opinion ;)). Although we are still striving for better articulation, Belle continues to have more and more to say each day. Belle is frequently using 2-3-4 word phrases but I am starting to get some five word phrases every day including, "Look at my shirt, Mommy" and "Burke back home, eat lunch."

My motivation for doing the TalkTools program is that I want to help Belle develop her ability to better communicate with others. We know that she has many thoughts she wants to share, her own perspective on events, and lots of insight into her daily world. She loves people and enjoys building relationships, which is founded upon communication. I am grateful for the skills she has developed thus far and look forward to the year ahead. Thank you Whitney and all of the staff at TalkTools for making this possible!

Below are a few recent pictures of Belle enjoying our state fair.

2 years 11 months b 2 years 11 months a cropped

And here is a video of Belle saying some of her common phrases, while "doing" her hair in front of the mirror. She is just too busy these days :D.

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 →

2 Years 8&9 Months: Ups and Downs

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

2 Years 8 Months


Today we were walking through the snack/cereal aisle at the grocery store, and Belle had spotted something so she ran ahead. She quickly grabbed a box of the shelf and came running back with it, exclaiming with all her excitement, "Daddy fruit chews!" Three words. Clear as day. No question about it. Needless to say, we couldn't say no and happily added the box to our cart. There isn't a day that goes by that she doesn't amaze me in some way. To date, Belle has more than 120 words and is continuing to express several two-word combinations.

I can honestly say that there would be no way that Belle would be at her current level in communication skills if it wasn't for our work with TalkTools. When Belle was only a few months old, a friend and Down syndrome expert, Julia Kinder, told me that of all the programs out there, the one that we absolutely could not do without is TalkTools. So, we entered this program with Whitney Pimentel when Belle was just 5 months old. What a blessing it has been! I am so grateful that Belle has the verbal ability to communicate many of her thoughts and requests. What a gift.

TalkTools | Annabelle 2.8 years

2 Years 9 Months

Sometimes in a quick video clip or picture, it may appear that things are easy, full of joy, and stress free all the time. Even though we all know this is not true, it is so tempting to compare ourselves to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends on social media when we view these snippets of someone else's life through a photo or video. The truth is that every day is full of ups and downs, especially with young children. Belle has a full range of emotions, even though I typically only video her when she is in an agreeable mood.  What motivates Belle one day is not interesting to her the next. Honestly, we have days when she puts up a pretty good fight to avoid doing her oral motor exercises. I have to pick and choose carefully to approach her about her tasks. Even though Belle is doing the "work" in our TalkTools program, I have to put forth an equal amount (or more) of effort on most occasions. This is not to say that it isn't worth it. It totally is! I am so excited about her progress, which makes it all worth it for me. I am thrilled for her and thrilled for me!

2 years 9 months

Belle's verbalizations are pretty constant. Her brother and sister even "shush" her a few times every day when they are trying to watch a television show, etc. Belle is also making some progress on answering questions appropriately. For a long time, she would just repeat the last option you offered her. For example, if you ask her if she would like milk or water, she would say water. If you then followed up by asking if she would like water or milk, she would respond "milk." She still does this quite frequently but is having some success in processing the question and responding with the correct answer.

Belle will make an attempt to say almost anything you ask of her. She sings, pretends to read books, and chatters endlessly. So... now our goals have shifted toward articulation, articulation and articulation. Even though she talks a lot, it is pretty hard to understand most of what she is saying (unless you have an idea of the subject matter).

Whitney has tailored our efforts to move towards clearer speech, the next phase of communication for Belle. Since our summer schedule is not as structured, Whitney has also helped us focus on what is most important if we can't work through our full program each day. I love summer but look forward to getting back on the "full track" this fall.

-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 →