Tagged "honey bear"


Success Story | Colter and Vanessa

Posted by Admin TalkTools 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 | Terrance and Vanessa

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Who is ready to hear a therapy success story? Terrance was 26 months old when Vanessa first met him and was unable to drink from a straw. What Vanessa did with this little boy is amazing and truly inspiring. We are so glad TalkTools® was able to provide her with the tools and techniques she needed to assist this client!

TalkTools | Terrance

"I always had a passion within feeding and oral motor therapy and that journey lead me to TalkTools. After my first training, I was hooked. I watched inpatient and outpatient Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists use equipment and weights to strengthen patients before going into functional activities … Why hadn’t SLPs been doing this?! Needless to say, TalkTools was my missing link in therapy and I quickly took more courses to better understand Oral Placement Therapy.

In April of 2015 I had a phone call from a distraught mother and I heard words I hear often from the families of prospective patients: “He doesn’t eat”, “I am so worried”, “He hates to eat”, “He is still on his bottle.” Then I heard something worse than what typically comes from the other end of the phone, “I was told he will never chew or eat food properly.” I explained that there must be something that can be done and that I was confident that with the training from TalkTools I had, I could make some sort of a difference. Maybe I couldn’t get him to eat what his siblings were eating at the dinner table but I thought we could get somewhere. Challenge accepted!

Terrance and his family lived 2 hours away from my practice but I happened to be treating patients a little closer to them and we met half way. For an hour and a half I was able to sit down with Terrance and his family and conduct a full Oral Placement Therapy assessment. I expected to see a boy who had no oral motor skills and I anticipated we could struggle through the assessment. Well, Terrance surprised me (the first of many times)! In front of me sat a little boy with a sparkling personality who had a great foundation of skills, he just had to figure out how to use them to eat!

TalkTools | Terrance & Vanessa

The little boy who “would never chew or eat properly” was able to fully compress both the yellow and red Chewy Tubes multiple times and he learned how to drink from the Honey Bear within minutes. Food wasn’t fun for him yet but I knew that we would get there. I explained to his parents that while the end goal was of course to eat and enjoy food, we had to prepare his sensory-motor system for it first. We were able to use the Pre-Feeding Chewing Hierarchy to teach the task of chewing without the overwhelming sensory input of food. Every chewing exercise began with a Chewy Tube and ended with food, even if he spit it out. Everything we did was fun and play-based, yet still pushed his limits. The best thing was he was so distracted by having fun, he soon began putting food in his mouth himself.

I put together a TalkTools program plan and gave his family homework each week. In May, we were fortunate that TalkTools® Instructor Renee Roy-Hill was in the area and created an in-depth Oral Placement Therapy plan for him. His family was very dedicated to working on homework I assigned them each week as well as following his program plan.

Six months later, Terrance has worked his way up to Straw #3, Horn #1, Bubble Blowing Hierarchy Step #4, just to name a few. He no longer requires a bottle for the source of his main nutrition or for hydration; instead he uses a straw. The biggest accomplishment is that Terrance is eating everything his family is eating! Casseroles, sandwiches, fresh fruit … He loves it all. There is no doubt in my mind that this would not have been achieved with any other program or training besides TalkTools. Terrance and his family travel 2 hours for our weekly therapy visits and continue to work very hard at home on his speech and feeding.

TalkTools | Vanessa

I am so blessed that TalkTools has come into my life. The skill set it has given me in invaluable to not only my practice but also the lives of the families I work with!" 

Vanessa and Terrance are now working on jaw stability, lip rounding, and tongue retraction among other things.

Vanessa 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 - 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!

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