TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Maureen Dykinga, MS, CCC-SLP, reached out to TalkTools last year to request a donation for SPOON Foundation's upcoming trip to Mauritius. The goal of this trip was to train the local caregivers to use good feeding techniques with children living in shelters. That mission was close to our heart as we strive to teach and spread good feeding techniques throughout the world too! If this resonates with you too, feel free to make a donation here.

TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius

Here Maureen writes about her trip and the organization's mission in general.

"SPOON is the only organization worldwide focused on the issue of malnutrition for children living outside of permanent family care. SPOON has worked in 12 countries since 2007, using tools specifically designed to accommodate the unique nutrition and feeding needs of children impacted by disability and/or institutional care. In many areas where SPOON works around the globe, there is no access to specialized feeding equipment such as maroon spoons and flexi-cups. For children who have complex feeding challenges, these items are essential for promoting safety during mealtimes. In addition to providing training and education on feeding, we at SPOON provide the equipment and model its use, with the goal that we will decrease the number of children fed with their heads tipped back, and those fed bite sizes too large to be managed safely. These solutions have been proven to drastically reduce malnutrition and life-threatening feeding practices in institutions, foster care, and community settings."   

"In November, SPOON traveled to Mauritius to train caregivers of children living outside of permanent family care on proper feeding techniques for children with disabilities. In the Mauritius shelters we visited, we saw children with disabilities being offered drinks with their head tipped back, causing dangers of aspiration and choking. Children were also being fed large bit sizes by scraping the food off of the spoon into their mouths. We utilized TalkTools' donated flexi-cups to train caregivers on offering children with disabilities drinks without tipping the child’s head back, decreasing the risk for aspiration while drinking. We also trained caregivers to use donated TalkTools' maroon spoons, which allowed the children to take in smaller bite sizes and, with assistance and the maroon spoon, begin to develop lip closure skills. These critical feeding tools, paired with our training, will increase these children’s feeding skills, leading to increased safety, efficiency, and skill building during feeding. As these feeding practices improve, we hope to see improved health in the children as well as promoting dignity and a better quality of life."

TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius

TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius

TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius

TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius


TalkTools Sponsors SPOON's Feeding Therapy Work in Mauritius

Here's Maureen Dykinga, MS, CCC-SLP's bio from the SPOON Foundation website: "Maureen is a pediatric speech-language pathologist with a background in improving the lives of those with feeding, communication, and cognitive difficulties. She has devoted the majority of her career to the birth to three population, with a special focus on supporting medically fragile individuals and their caregivers. Maureen spent the past 13 years as a business owner and entrepreneur, running a small private practice in Tucson, Arizona. She used her collaborative efforts both professionally and philanthropically to develop and promote systems that improve quality of life for this special population. Maureen has brought her passion for advocating for underserved populations to the Pacific Northwest and along with her husband and furry family of pets, is developing a newfound love of rain!"

Maureen can be reached via comments below.

 

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Success Story | Colter and Vanessa

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

In April of 2015, I received an e-mail about a little boy with Down syndrome named Colter. His mother was desperately seeking help…he couldn’t chew his food and she was at her wits end trying to figure out how to teach him.

Even though this is “speech therapy,” his actual speech was not an issue at this point…yes there were delays but if a child can’t eat that is priority #1. Plus, in the back of my mind I knew that if we targeted his feeding goals his verbal speech would start to develop as well.

I love feeding therapy! When we meet goals, it means we are getting nutrition and hydration to little ones and it positively impacts the whole family. Many people take for granted the ease that there is in getting a baby or toddler to eat meals and snacks throughout the day. However there are many families out there that experience a battle EVERY TIME, EVERY DAY they try to feed a child. There has got to be few things more stressful to a parent than a child not being able to eat or being an aspiration risk. Colter was a mix of both of those.

Colter was 18 months old and swallowed almost every solid he put in his mouth but without chewing. He yearned to eat but couldn’t get the motor plan down to do so. He couldn’t move his tongue side to side (also known as lateralizing) so if food was placed in the front of his mouth he would suckled it and then swallow. What is frightening about a child doing this is that if it happens frequently they actually lose their choking reflex. We had our work cut out for us.

I educated his mother on how to place meltable solids on the side of his lateral molars so he had a better chance at chewing it and keeping it there. For practice, we used the TalkTools Pre-Feeding Hierarchy, as described in Lori Overland & Robyn Merkel-Walsh’s book A Sensory Motor Approach to Feeding. This eliminated the risk associated with choking on food and focused solely on practicing chewing and tongue lateralization. This paired with a pre-feeding program began to work wonders on Colter. We used a Z-Vibe with pre-feeding exercises from Lori Overland’s TalkTools course Feeding Therapy: A Sensory-Motor Approach before we started any feeding therapy.

Colter’s mom was diligent about keeping up with this program, which was a major factor in how far he came! Within 6 months Colter was eating much more solid food and the best part was he was being safe while doing it!

A few months later, his verbal speech exploded. He always had a higher receptive ability than expressive and thanks to getting his feeding on track, his verbal expression blossomed. When I explained to his mother that his talking was most likely a direct result of oral motor therapy, she said “I know you said that him talking more could be a possibility when we first started therapy but I didn’t think it could happen!”

Currently Colter is 2 years, 9 months old and is eating everything. One of his first words was “eat”! He loves beef jerky, hummus with veggies, fruit snacks, watermelon, and grapes. He is beginning to speak in 2 word utterances and has great intelligibility when doing so.

TalkTools | Success Story - Colter & Vanessa

The next frontier we are on is drinking from a straw. Colter still uses a bottle and isn’t thrilled with learning to drink from anything other than that! Now our focus has shifted to drinking from the Honey Bear. We had to put the beloved Honey Bear “away” for a month or so as he was so opposed to it. Then during therapy one day, I started to do some lip rounding pre-feeding exercises with Colter and he was successful, so we brought it out on a whim. All of the sudden, it clicked for him! While we are still working on him getting used to it, his family and I are thrilled with how far he has come!

What I love about Colter’s story is that he is a textbook case about what TalkTools can do for kids. In Lori Overland and Robyn Merkel-Walsh’s book A Sensory Motor Approach to Feeding, it is discussed that you cannot separate speech and feeding. While it may not be a 1:1 ratio, speech and feeding have a very close connection. Colter is proof of that!

~ Vanessa Anderson-Smith

TalkTools | Vanessa Anderson-SmithVanessa Anderson-Smith is a Speech-Language Pathologist born and raised in South Dakota. She received her Bachelor’s Degree at Augustana University and Master’s Degree from The University of South Dakota. In 2013 she began Anderson-Smith Speech Therapy, LLC. Her practice focuses on assessment and treatment of motor-based speech and feeding disorders among children and adults. Vanessa lives in Canton, South Dakota with her extremely supportive husband, Ryan.

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Success Story: Maddox

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

By: Dr. Jamie McClintic Maddox Timeline

Maddox Before & After TalkTools® Oral Placement Therapy (OPT)

After our daughter Maddox was born, one of the first things her teacher said to us was, “Be sure that she can talk.”  Not just any kind of talk, but it was critical that Maddox learn to speak clearly.  As Miss Marie put it, “Intelligibility is what gives credibility.” She went on to say that kids with Down Syndrome are taken much more seriously when they are understood.

Along the same lines of language clarity, society also bases first impressions on what is visually appealing to them. As unfortunate as it seems, these statements are true.

Fortunately, the Down Syndrome Community has Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson and TalkTools® to thank for creating a program that gives our children a chance, a real fighting chance at their life.

TalkTools' simple Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) programs can have a very significant impacts on your child’s entire future.  Their techniques aim to improve the muscle strength and coordination of the mouth, which in turn produces increased feeding abilities, clearer articulation and consequently more visually appealing facial structures.

Think about it, we use physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve coordination for walking and crawling.  We use occupational therapy to strengthen muscles and coordination for writing and hand use.  Why would we not use speech therapy to strengthen muscles and improve coordination for speech?!

Let me explain how the program worked for us. An initial evaluation with a certified TalkTools Therapist allows them to identify your child's oral weaknesses, and create a treatment plan for targeting and strengthening those muscles.  After our initial evaluation with Sara, we received a packet of information in the mail. The most valuable contents being the home exercise program for us to follow with Maddox. It is was several pages long and extremely overwhelming initially. We did not want to be responsible for making a single mistake!  It took my husband and I two weeks and many read throughs before we finally had the courage to sit down and implement the first (and only the first) exercise.

It’s kind of like taking that leap.  Once you start, there is no turning back.  We quickly realized that this was not as hard as we imagined, and that Maddox was actually having fun!

I’d like to share with you a little about what worked for our family.  First, we purchased all the corresponding tools that were recommended in the evaluation and homework.  I dug an old cosmetics organizing bag with handles out of the closet.  We put the cheat sheet of exercise instructions in the bag along with all the tools and hung it on the corner of Maddox’s high chair.

This bag was a constant reminder to anyone who fed Maddox that there were exercises that needed to precede her meal. If two of us were home, one of us would sit and implement her program while the other would make the meal. If only one of us were home, we’d implement her program, then give her give her a few fun toys to play with as a reward during the meal prep.

Maddox’s nanny was also trained to implement the program.  In addition, she received speech therapy two times a week, and her protocol was also administered during those sessions by her speech therapist.

We functioned like this from the time she was 20 months old until she was 40 months old. On a given day, Maddox would receive anywhere from four to six exposures of her program and absolutely never less than three times.  When we started at 20 months, Maddox went from using 150 signs and having few sound imitations to speaking in two to three word sentences at 40 months of age.

It was also extremely important to us during that time to supplement general language with pictures, gestures, and/or sign language while Maddox was developing the muscle strength and coordination to speak.  This way, when the two parts collided, (language development and oral development), we’d have a talker!

And that is exactly what happened!

By 48 months, Maddox was learning to put ‘ing’ and plural sounds on the ends of words.  She was attending head start and used not one single sign! The photos above are before and after comparison photos of Maddox from 20 months of age to 40 months of age.  And then for fun, there is a recent photo! I've also shared some videos of Maddox practicing her speech at home and in therapy to show just how great she is doing! We are so proud of her, and hope that other families will find the same success that we did for their children.

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Success Story - Ozzie's World

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

We recently asked our Facebook fans to share their experience using TalkTools® therapy techniques, and we received some great responses. One of our favorites was from Jason Smith who wrote about his son, Ozzie. Here is what Jason had to say about his family's experience using the TalkTools® Honey Bear:

Ozzie's World - BeachOzzie's World


"Ozzie was born on June 1, 2014. We found out that he might have Down Syndrome on June 2nd. The diagnosis was confirmed on June 4th. Our world was turned upside down.

Having no experience with Down Syndrome, we feared the worst, but I wish we knew what we know now. Ozzie is pure joy! He loves his siblings, he is a ham, he loves the beach and swimming, and he has captured the hearts of countless people.

Down Syndrome is not as scary as one might think, but it is hard work.

Ozzie has been in therapy since he was two months old. We are committed to providing Ozzie with all of the tools and skills necessary to succeed. Being an English teacher, Ozzie's mom is especially driven to facilitate and develop his speech.

Before speech can develop, oral muscle tone must be strengthened. Ozzie nurses like a champ but really struggled with a bottle, cup, and straw. We felt that mastering the use of a straw would help Ozzie with his oral muscle tone and speech development. Drinking from a straw requires different muscles. We struggled with regular straws and baby cups and were left frustrated and defeated.

One day, Ozzie's physical therapist mentioned the Honey Bear from TalkTools as a possible aid. We ordered it immediately and followed the training guidelines that TalkTools recommended. Within a couple of weeks Ozzie was drinking from a straw on his own! He was four months old and we were thrilled. Ozzie was a four month old baby, with Down Syndrome, who could effortlessly transition from breastfeeding to drinking from a straw!

Raising a child with special needs takes extra patience, dedication, and love. It is also the most rewarding and humbling experience. We try to educate ourselves on any ideas, methods, or products out there that can help Ozzie along the way. TalkTools has been invaluable in assisting Ozzie. Thank you for providing support, guidance, and assistance to all of those who struggle to learn new skills."

Congratulations to Ozzie on his success with the Honey Bear, his parents are doing a wonderful job and we love seeing his cute pictures on Facebook. Keep up the good work!

Follow Ozzie's journey on Facebook

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Dashiell Wins The Award For Self-Advocacy

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

"When our son Dashiell was born in early 2004 with Down syndrome, we immediately began researching possible intervention and therapy options. We realized that in our talkative family, speech would be our priority. When we found an article by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP about her oral-motor therapy, the connections between feeding and speech really made sense to us, especially since we could start working on speech skills before Dashiell was talking. When Dashiell was five months old, I attended Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, C/NDT's class on feeding children with Down syndrome and started doing the feeding and oral-motor therapy exercises at home. When he was a year old, we started working with Sara and other TalkTools therapists whenever the visiting clinics came to our area. Dashiell has been using the exercises at home for almost 10 years. He has worked his way through the feeding exercises, the straw hierarchy, and the bite blocks and is currently working on using the jaw exerciser, button pull, and tongue depressor push ups among other exercises.

The TalkTools program has helped Dashiell immensely. Because of his good muscle tone and habits, his speech is understood by unfamiliar listeners almost all of the time. His strong speech skills have opened many doors for him. He loves telling stories and jokes, and his friends in a typical classroom can understand him. He has made presentations to many classes and groups about what it is like to have Down syndrome and even emceed an event for over 600 people. We are so grateful that Dashiell can express his feelings and ideas. He has a lot of great stuff to say!"

-Dashiell's parents

Dashiell_Award

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