7 Months: Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) Starts

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

At 7 months, Belle continued to be doing well. She was eating from her flattened spoon really consistently. She’s done fine with the Honey Bear but hasn’t advanced much, which happens to be mostly my fault. I typically was only getting a chance to work with her 5 times a week or so. Her tongue retraction was really good, but she kept having an open mouth posture a lot of the time. This might sound a little discouraging, but we don’t see it that way. Her Dad and I are still so proud of her and her progress, and we will keep moving along.

Moving right along with Belle’s therapy, we started on her Oral Placement Therapy (OPT). Before every feeding and therapy session, I wake up and tone the muscles around her mouth with touch. I start with a soft blanket and massage her jaws and play with her to get her relaxed and interested. She loves when I start massaging her with my fingers. Her laugh and smile are amazing to watch when she gets going. I work through a list of tools to help stimulate her muscles. I start with a toothette to massage the inside of her mouth on both sides, then go to my pinkie finger and do the same thing. I’m not sure which of those she likes better, but her smile tells me she is enjoying it.  Next, I move onto the TalkTools’ Finger Cuff and the Yellow Chewy Tube to get Belle to chomp on my finger. She does a great job chomping down on the tools on both sides of her mouth. My finger can tell you that. I’m so happy to see her getting the hang of her therapy and progressing like she is. I know we are making progress and have a ways to go, but it makes my heart melt just seeing her smile and laugh while we are working with her.

IMG_2910-7months

-Lanie Beetsma

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6 Months: Eating Pureed Foods

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

In continuation of her progress at 6 months, we introduced pureed foods to Belle. The trick was getting her used to a flattened spoon. We had her get the puree off the spoon and keep it in her mouth and then swallow. She did a good job. We are teaching Belle to chew and swallow and to not push her food back out of her mouth with her tongue. But she kept pushing her food out with her tongue. At this point, I took some of the puree in a little syringe and inserted the food into the back of her mouth on both sides of her jaw to teach her to chew and swallow. I think she really liked the carrots because this worked and she did a great job with this method.

As I mentioned earlier, children with Down syndrome have a tendency to carry their tongue in a forward position which presents as an enlarged tongue in the tonsil area. This is a common characteristic and causes problems with feeding and speech clarity. With the program plan we received from our TalkTools therapist, Whitney, we are learning to help Belle fight that instinct, so she can chew and swallow her food like normal. We are so proud of the progress she is making and enjoy seeing the continued progression. Unconditional love really has a whole new meaning when it comes to helping and learning with our daughter.

-Lanie Beetsma

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6 Months: Continued use of Honey Bear Bottle

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Belle is now 6 months old and we have been working with the Honey Bear for over a month. She is doing a fantastic job learning how to drink out of a straw and control her tongue and mouth. She has learned to close her mouth around the straw which has assisted her in taking consecutive drinks. We could not be more thrilled with her progress. And we were lucky that we were able to capture one of her longest drinks on video! She drank for several seconds without stopping! We cannot express how fun it is for us to see our baby girl getting the hang of the straw and controlling her mouth and tongue in the process.

Children with Down Syndrome typically experience some delays in overall physical growth and tone. This is why various therapies are so important for Miss Belle! Her low tone also affects her oral cavity which is, of course, the foundation for feeding and drinking.  Working with Whitney, our TalkTools Therapist, to help Belle with tongue retraction, jaw strength, and stability has helped us understand the importance of this program. As she gets older, the need for speech and additional oral motor skills will continue. Even though Belle is not "talking" yet, we know that we doing what is best for Belle as early as possible. We look forward to this journey with optimism and know that we are doing all we can for her. We are so proud of her progress!

-Lanie Beetsma

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5 Months: First Honey Bear Therapy Session

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

After Belle’s initial evaluation with Whitney Pimentel, TalkTools Oral Placement Speech and Feeding Therapist, we knew right away that this was the partnership we had been looking for in effort to provide our daughter with the best opportunity for success. We are so excited to have found a partner in this new journey! Having a daughter with Down Syndrome does require some extra time and effort, so we wanted to make sure that we were working smarter, and not just harder. After the initial meeting, Whitney put together a detailed plan of Belle's program, and we quickly placed our first order for the supplies and the tools we needed in order to assist with feeding and drinking. We have committed to the TalkTools program to provide the best opportunity for Belle to maximize her oral motor abilities, feeding and drinking skills, and speaking capabilities in the future.

I do also want to mention that the exercises and tools are easy to use. We have two other young children in our family so we do not have hours of extra time to devote to an additional therapy regime. Luckily, we don't have to worry about that. Instead, we have a compact program that we incorporate into our daily routine.

One of the first steps in helping our daughter was to introduce the Honey Bear. One important thing to note is that all of the TalkTools kits and programs come with detailed instructions that are easily understood.  The Honey Bear encouraged Belle to learn to drink out of a straw and allowed me the ability to control the flow of liquid into her mouth. I was so nervous about squirting too much into her mouth, but it was so easy and she did GREAT!! (You may even notice Belle's cheering squad in the background. AKA... her 5 year old sister.) To begin, I showed her that milk was going to come out of the straw and how that was going to feel. And the second time we tried it, she drank the milk out of the straw all by herself! We were so excited. I even called Whitney to share our good news. Belle repeatedly sucked through the straw several more times and didn’t even make too much of a mess. She swallowed like she was supposed to. We were so proud of our daughter on her first attempt at drinking out of a straw!

We know we have a long way to go yet, but just seeing Belle taking the first step in learning to drink through a straw is so rewarding, and we know we made the right choice in her therapy. We are so proud of her and look forward to continuing on this path of success with TalkTools.

-Lanie Beetsma

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Introduction to Annabelle and Lanie

Posted by Admin TalkTools on

I am not going to lie… I cried a lot during my pregnancy. A LOT! I was scared, and wondered why my daughter was the one who had Down’s syndrome while people all around me were having these adorable, perfect, and healthy little babies. I can honestly say that having Annabelle is 1,000 times better than being pregnant with her. My tears have dried up. They have been replaced with a commitment to love her, teach her, and grow with her. I always knew that I would love her, but after she was born, I was reminded of how unconditional it would be. I am truly looking forward to my future with her. I can’t wait to watch her grow and thrive.

So far, life isn't any different having a baby with Down syndrome. We have had a few extra doctor appointments, since Annabelle does have two holes in her heart that will need repair, but other than that, nothing has changed much. Our life is good, and happiness is still a choice, just like it was before she was born.

For the past few days, I have looked into her precious eyes and know that she needs me. She needs me for comfort, for food, and for love. And honestly, I need her too. She brings me joy. Her smile melts my heart and fills that empty place in my soul that was so terrified that my life would never be the same. Today I am thankful for all three of my wonderful children. They keep me grounded. They give my life purpose.

–Lanie, mom to Annabelle

 

(The above introductory is an excerpt taken from Dr. Julia Kinder Blog written by Lanie, mom of Annabelle and Dr. Julia Kinder.)


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