Tagged "Oral Motor Therapy"

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.

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2 Years 6&7 Months: Seeing Progress

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

2 Years 6 Months

Here are a few recent pictures of Belle. (Yes, the second picture is of Belle letting us bury her in the sand.)

TalkTools | Annabelle 2 years 6 months

Belle just crossed the 100 word mark for words that she voluntarily verbalizes on her own! Some of her latest words include "doctor, swimsuit, goggles," and "fruit chews." She has been sick quite a bit this month which has increased all her drainage, congestion, etc. Despite her restless nights, she seems to still be progressing. If Belle is in an agreeable mood and if she thinks there is a chance that she could be successful, she will attempt to say most of the words that I ask her to, although many of the ending sounds are typically left off.

In our oral motor program, we are continuing to work with bite blocks, gum, horns, and straws on a regular basis. We have a video conference with Whitney, at TalkTools, 1-2 times per month. "Skyping" with Whitney has been a great addition to our daily program.

In other news, I am happy to say that Belle can identify all of the uppercase letters in the alphabet! In addition to selecting the correct one when called upon, she can verbally pronounce about 10-12 of them too.

2 Years 7 Months

Belle has always been a "verbal" child. This month, however, her desire to vocalize has reached an all-time high. Just this past week, I left a voicemail message on Whitney's phone saying something to the effect of "Belle just talked for 8 minutes straight without stopping. She is using tons of facial expressions and hand gestures. I am excited about this, I think. But, I am also a little worried because I didn't understand one thing she said!" Whitney returned my call to reassure me that this was a natural stage in her progression and this type of lengthy babbling typically happens before a language explosion. I am thrilled to hear this!!!

TalkTools | Annabelle 2.7 years

Belle currently has around 110 words but there are SO many words that she says that I just can't quite translate yet. Once again, her articulation is not perfect, but we are working on it. :)

Regarding Belle's oral motor exercises, I feel like she has been making gains pretty steadily in the last month. Her horn duration is lengthening, as is her bubble blowing, and she has also moved up a level in her bite blocks and straws. We have been working for quite some time on our "Word Flips" app with Whitney. At a previous Skype session, Whitney noticed that it's Belle's vowel sounds that are lagging behind. So, we started slowing down and have her focused more on vowels. We have also transitioned into working with Belle to say her words with this app three times in a row, such as "pie, pie, pie." We are definitely seeing progress! But, our work continues.

Here are 2 quick videos showing Belle's progress with her Bubble Bear and Horn #3. Our goal is 2 feet on the bubbles and 1.5 seconds on the horn. We are getting closer to our goal.

Have a good day everyone!

-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 4&5 Months: Miss Independent

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

2 Years 4 Months


Attached are two videos of Belle working on some wooden puzzles - one of her name and one that includes shapes of different colors. She loves puzzles! She is a little more chatty in the name puzzle one though. B is her favorite letter so far.

Working on the name puzzle:

Working on the shapes puzzle:

Belle is now 2 years and 4 months old and is Miss Independent. Her favorite word is officially "me," which she says at least 50 times a day. :) She wants to feed herself, dress herself, play with the Ipad by herself, etc., etc. While this is a good step in development, it can be quite challenging during her "TalkTools time" as she wants to hold all the tools, straws, and horns. I have to work extra hard these days to keep things fun and hold her attention. However, despite her new-found independence, she is continuing to do really well.

Belle has started putting two concepts together quite regularly now. Her favorites are "no no Mommy," "bye bye Daddy," "night night Bubba," and "more eat." She also loves to go around the room and name everyone. Each night at dinner, she will quickly name everyone at the table, "Mommy, Daddy, Bubba, Lyla, me." Belle is also starting to show major interest in potty training so we have a lot of "potty" words emerging these days. I have kind of lost track, but I know her verbal vocabulary is well over 60 words now. Belle is full of life and has a lot to say!

Here are a few pictures of Belle at 2 Years 4 Months and 2 Years 5 Months. The third one is with her big sister, Lyla.

TalkTools | Annabelle 2 years 4 months TalkTools | Annabelle 2 years 4 months TalkTools | Annabelle 2 years 4 months TalkTools | Annabelle 2 years 5 months

2 Years 5 Months

I am excited to report that Belle's language has really taken off again in the last month. I just updated my list of words that Belle says on a pretty regular basis, and she has at least 80 words now! I would estimate that about 20 of those 80 words, a stranger on the street would understand, and another 40 that our close family can distinguish. Those last 20 words, however, are left for me, Belle's daddy, and her big sister to enjoy :) Attached is a video of Belle repeating some of her words - some old, some new.

The other video includes the current horn we are working on (Horn #3) that requires a 1.5 second duration. As you will notice, we are "not there yet." It is a work in progress. I wanted to include an exercise that Belle is working on, so hopefully we can show her really mastering this skill in the months ahead. The work she does is not easy, and she doesn't necessarily look forward to it every day. Even though she might not look too thrilled in the video, I secretly know that she enjoys the one-on-one time and my cheers for her attempts. I am so proud of this little lady. She is such a bright light in my life!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

-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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2 Years 2&3 Months: Becoming Chatty

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

2 Years 2 Months

Belle is doing well and has really been enjoying being 2 :) She was a clown for Halloween and loved everything about that holiday. She even let me paint her face! Another picture shows her having fun at an outdoor lighting display, and the last is of Belle watching television while chomping on a TalkTools tool that she has graduated from. I try to keep her old tools on hand for long car trips as well. This allows her to get a few more jaw exercises in.

2 years 2 months a square TalkTools | Annabelle 2.2 & 2.3 months 2 years 2 months c square

Earlier this month, I noticed that her verbal skills had leveled off a little. She was verbalizing less and had failed to add any new words that I could recognize. During this time, she also was fighting a little stomach bug that seemed to take her just a little bit longer than the rest of us to recover from. I am excited to report that she is feeling much better and talking a lot more again. Her new word this week is turtle! She is also starting to call out colors, especially blue and pink. We have moved her to a "big girl" bed and she LOVES to chat while in bed, when she is supposed to sleeping, of course :)

Here's two recent videos of Belle. One is of her chewing gum by herself and the other is of her looking through a picture book and saying some family names.

2 Years 3 Months

Attached is a video of Belle doing her "kisses" exercises for her TalkTools oral motor therapy. Belle changes her mind quite frequently on which exercises she likes and which ones she doesn't, but the kisses have been high on her list for the past few days. Although Belle has been quite chatty lately, I don't know if we've made tons of progress this month in regards to new "words" or clearer speech. I will admit, however, that with the holidays, traveling, and various events, I have been pressed for time and haven't been able to give Belle very much focused individual time. Once the school year gets back underway, I know we will get back on track.

Earlier this month, we were able to meet with Whitney in person and update our current plan. Although Skype calls are helpful, in person is way better!!! I am still trying to get the hang of transitioning from just "exercises" to using the exercises to create a desired vocal expression. I will need continued help with this :) Our updated plan has several new tactics including new straws with thicker liquids, longer duration with horns, and continued gum chewing progression. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I am confident that we are taking the right steps to get there.

Belle continues to be happy, overall healthy, and remains very curious. She is independent, playful, and adds so much joy to those around her. I am so proud of this little gal. People often mention how lucky Belle is to be born into our family. I usually just nod and say thank you, but the truth is that we are the lucky ones. She is my greatest teacher and has changed my life in so many positive ways.

2 years 3 months a square TalkTools | Annabelle 2.3 years 2 years 3 months c square 2 years 3 months d square

Have a wonderful week!

-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.

p.s.: We have been posting deferred updates of Annabelle, but now we are aiming to catch up with reality.

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2 Years 1 Month: Keeping Belle Motivated

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

TalkTools Blog  |  Annabelle 25 Months

Belle is now 2 years and 1 month old and is continuing to do well. You can see in the video below the improvement Belle has made with her Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) exercises. I only made her go to 10 on the horn, but she can do 25 fairly easily when I can her motivated. She loves to say "ten" when we are counting, as you will notice during her horn exercises :)

The introduction of gum chewing has also been a big hit. She sees her older siblings chew gum frequently, so she likes the fact that she can participate in something that the big kids do too.

I am continually amazed at Belle's receptive language and her ability to learn. We have found, however, that she is fairly quick to shut down with her Oral Placement Therapy tasks if she perceives something as too hard, or thinks that she will not be successful.

Our SLP, Whitney Pimentel, was the first one to pick up on this during one of our Skype sessions. Belle was refusing to play one of her horns, because she knew that her first attempt was not on target. Whitney then seamlessly altered our program so that Belle could find success on her previous, lower-level horn, and we could then strategically interject the new horn.

I am also happy to report that Belle has been off the bottle and pacifier for 3 full weeks now! We are so proud of her. 

Here is a video of Belle chewing gum, using Bubble Bear & Horn #2:

-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 →