Tagged "Down Syndrome therapy"

4.9 Years: Full Summer Mode!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

We are in full summer mode here! Belle has been enjoying some horseback riding lessons, swimming, cheering on her siblings at baseball games, and finishing up a great dancing year with a big dance recital. The recital took up a substantial part of the beginning of our summer, so that's where all our pictures came from this month.

TalkTools | Annabelle 4.9 years TalkTools | Annabelle 4.9 years TalkTools | Annabelle 4.9 years

Belle is continuing to grow her vocabulary daily. I love hearing her use intangible words like "exhausted, probably, beautiful, tomorrow, etc." In regards to her oral motor exercises, I am most impressed by her progress with Horn #6 this month. Her duration and breath/volume behind it is great! Monica moved us up to horn #6 last month because it coincides with the tongue retraction we are striving for in this part of Belle's speech development.

I love how TalkTools has developed so many tools and exercises that meet the needs of where people are in their journey. When Belle has a new speech challenge that arises (that really stresses me out), Monica Mitchell remains calm, cool, and collected. She has seen it all! And there is no issue that is too big in her eyes. I love that reassurance.

-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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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!

TalkTools | Annabelle 3.10 yearsTalkTools | Annabelle 3.10 years3-years-10-months-c3-years-10-months-d3-years-10-months-e

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.


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.

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.

Read more →

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 →