Tagged "oral motor exercises"


Success Story: Kamdyn & Vanessa

Posted by Admin TalkTools on

3 years ago I was seeing a little boy named Kamdyn who had just turned 2 a couple months prior, through our state’s early intervention program. I was presented with some general background info such as scores, goals of the family, and his limited verbal productions. Also, he had 18 documented ear infections! All signs pointed to your typical late talking boy who had to endure ear infection after ear infection. When he turned 3 he began seeing his local school district for therapy services. I said my goodbyes to this sweet little boy and wished him and his family luck on their journey ahead.

Fast forward 14 months later. I had immersed myself into motor speech and feeding therapy and had opened my own private practice. In May of 2016 I got an e-mail from Kamdyn’s mom, Ashley, who told me he was recently diagnosed with severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). Childhood Apraxia of Speech?! I know CAS is very difficult to diagnose before 3 years of age but I was dumbfounded and to be honest, disappointed in my clinical skills for not having any inclination. I worked with this little boy every week for over a year and I never once thought CAS was on the radar. After all, he had 18 ear infections!

There was no time for beating myself up, only time to get Kam into therapy and see what we can do. I had never worked with a kiddo with a sole diagnosis of severe CAS but I knew with all of the trainings I had taken in the last year I could bring something to the table.

Kamdyn came to his initial evaluation reluctantly. This kid had been through assessment after assessment and now he had to do more speech testing. My speech evaluation was different from others he had done though. I examined his mouth and assessed motor responses of his tongue, jaw, and lips. I found asymmetry in his jaw strength and stability, poor lip rounding, and poor lip closure for his /m/, /p/, and/b/ sounds. In addition, I found that he had a high palate, a moderate tongue tie, and a reverse swallow. While Kamdyn had no history of feeding difficulty or being a picky eater, he was chewing and manipulating the food in his mouth in a very unorganized way.

We started the TalkTools Straw Hierarchy (straw #2), the chewy tube hierarchy, Bite Blocks (the ultimate jaw exercise!), the Horn Hierarchy, and bubble blowing. Gum chewing and use of the slow feed technique were addressed as well. We also began to target the reverse swallow.

I explained to his mom that while this looks much different than traditional speech therapy it was essential to for him to have a good oral motor foundation. If we didn’t get his jaw in a good and stable position, he would inevitably have much more difficulty moving his tongue and lips when he speaks. It’s no different than a pyramid of cheerleaders. Without the stable base (the strong cheerleaders planted firmly on the ground), the cheerleader on the top of the pyramid won’t be able to do stunts. The cheerleader on the top is our tongue, the huge muscle that can demonstrate the finest motor movements that can be a difference between Kamdyn calling himself “Tam” instead of “Kam”.

Because of Kamdyn’s CAS and reverse swallow, he wasn’t using his muscles in the optimal way we want for speech. That is where the weakness came in. It was mild, but it was there. During speech he was in a constant state of retraction because he had to clench is jaw so much to provide stability in order for his tongue to have more movement.

I saw Kamdyn 2 x a week between last May and August, in addition to his traditional speech therapy. Our sessions consisted of approximately 30 minutes of oral placement exercises and 15 minutes of speech drills. We did not do 30 minutes of all OPT exercises, then 15 minutes of speech as that is not an effective way to generalize motor patterns. What I did was chain each OPT exercises with a functional speech sound/drill. For example, Kamdyn had a great amount of difficulty rounding his lips so we used the following sequence to target the /o/ “oooo” and /w/ speech sounds: Sensory motor warm up with a Z-Vibe involving cheek activation, fish lip pops, straw drinking, then mass practice of lip rounding sounds in CV or CVCV formation. The key is linking the OPT exercises from sensory, to feeding, and finally to speech.

Within just 2 months, his family noticed a marked improvement in not only his speech, but his confidence while speaking. The first video posted is of Kamdyn during his evaluation, the second video just 2 months after introducing an OPT based program. The difference in his ability to move his lips, cheeks, and jaw is astonishing!

It is an honor to be a part of Kamdyn’s therapy team and be able to see firsthand that OPT is not just for children with feeding difficulties. Kamdyn is living proof that speech is motor and if you pair sensory, feeding, and speech the sky is the limit!

~ 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 | 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 | Lily and Vanessa

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Lily, 3 years 4 months old, Unilateral Cleft Lip and Palate

image2When I saw that my former supervisor from my job during college and graduate school was adopting another special needs child from China, I was glued to their journey (the family had adopted a boy with cleft lip/palate from China previously). I watched from my computer screen as the Shields family adopted another child with a cleft lip and palate. That little girl was Lily (pictured on the left). And oh my, I have learned so much from her!

She had many medical complexities, surgeries, and hospital stays in her first year home. I continued to follow her story and literally thought: “I need to find a way to work with this girl because I know I can help!” How was I going to help? Using my OPT skill set of course! I knew in my heart that using Oral Placement Therapy and a motor-based speech and feeding program would get her where we wanted her speech the most efficiently.

Finally, the time came for me to see Lily for therapy. She was 2 years 6 months when we started. She was communicating wants and needs by pointing, grunting, and whining. She had a g-tube but was able to eat orally, just not enough. I looked at her repertoire of speech sounds and we started at the beginning with /p/, /b/, /m/. She wasn’t getting adequate lip closure needed for consonant-vowel productions (such as “moo, bye, pa”). The first thing I did was create a sensory warm-up plan for her to bring increased awareness to her muscles in her mouth. I used a toothette and various exercises from Lori Overland’s “Feeding Therapy: A Sensory-Motor Approach” course, as well as exercises Monica Purdy taught in “A Three-Part Treatment Plan for Oral Placement Therapy” course that I took.

image1 IMG_2538 IMG_2543

Next we started the Straw Hierarchy to help with lip closure, lip rounding and protrusion. I explained to her family that while this does not look like “traditional” speech therapy, it will help her to get the motor plan of lip closure so we can generalize it to speech. In addition, we began the Bite Tube Hierarchy due to jaw weakness and asymmetry, as well as the Horn Hierarchy to build up her abdominal grading.

Lily’s family was beyond committed to the program I designed and the whole family got involved. Every week I tweaked her program plan as she moved up through the hierarchies. Each session we started with her sensory-motor warm up, followed by her OPT and feeding exercises, a small snack, and ended with mass production of speech sounds.

Her endurance during eating still needs improvement but it has come quite far since the start of therapy. Due to her improving health and no recent hospitalizations, she is off of her tube feeding! The little girl that was struggling with one syllable word productions is now speaking in 3-4 word sentences consistently. Currently Lily is on Straw #5, Horn #6, Bite Block #3 (step one), and 4 pennies on a tongue depressor. Next, I plan on introducing the Button Pull Program and working through the hierarchies since it has been so successful for her already.

What I love about the TalkTools program is how diverse it is. I can adapt techniques to work with a variety of populations whether it is Cleft Lip and Palate, developmental delay, Apraxia of Speech, and countless other diagnoses. I am so thankful to have OPT in my “speech therapy tool box”!

Vanessa~ Vanessa Anderson-Smith

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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Cerebral Palsy treated with Oral Placement Therapy in Norway

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

LineVildeIn a recent article published in the Norwegian publication Cerebral Palsy Magazine,  TalkTools® Instructor Line Avers, MS, SLP is featured along with one of her long date client diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The main focus of the article is TalkTools Therapy and the huge gains that this little girl has made. TalkTools® Instructor Renee Roy Hill, MS, CCC-SLP also evaluated her way back, and Line Avers has followed that therapy plan. Her name is Vilde, and her picture makes the front cover of the magazine!

Line Avers has been Vilde's therapist since she was two and a half years old. Vidle's parents heard of Line Avers in conversations with other parents in a Cerebral Palsy Association. They recommend to seek speech therapy services early, as many children with Cerebral Palsy have speech and feeding issues. "Vilde still faces challenges related to eating and speaking, but the problems have been reduced after several years of regular oral-motor therapy," says Linn, Vilde's mom.

"Vilde therapyWe started the work on strengthening the functional movements by strengthening the muscles in the mouth that we use when we eat and speak. We took small steps, and it was important to find a balance between pushing slightly while respecting boundaries," says Avers. "When Vilde became accustomed to the therapy, I introduced new exercises. Jaw strength was the focus. A stronger jaw provides more support, and more support means more words. This is how Oral Placement Therapy works."


"After a few months we could already see improvement. Vilde was better at chew, was willing to try several types of food and produced more different sounds," says Linn, Vilde's mom.

TalkTools Therapy involves a range of tools for exercising your jaw, tongue and sensory system. Vilde has used bean bags (small pillows with different textures), straws, horns, bite tubes and vibrator with toothettes.

Daily monitoring and training is important. Vilde's parents have been present from the beginning during training to learn the method and exercises. Every day after school, the family spends 15-20 minutes going through the latest exercises. "It may sound like a lot, but it really takes very little time. It has become part of our daily routine. It is easy, and the program is very affordable," says Linn.

bean bagsIn addition to working directly with children, staff in schools and kindergartens, and parents, Line Avers's center also organizes live workshops. Parents, grandparents and professionals who want to become familiar with TalkTools Therapy can participate. The goal is that after two days of training, you should be able to initiate the procedure.

Vilde's family hopes that her story can inform other families about an important service that they may have no knowledge of and maybe even inspire them to start training.

Line Kristiansen Avers, MS, SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist who has over 12 years of experience specializing in topics within Apraxia, Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC), and Oral Placement Therapy. Line teaches classes in Apraxia and AAC at the University of Oslo, lectures at numerous seminars within Norway, and is a member of the TalkTools® speakers bureau. Line heads a private oral-motor, speech and language clinic in Norway, BARNAS språksenter. She has an M.S. from Penn State University and was a Fulbright Scholar.

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Baby T and Her Ties

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

"When our daughter was born with a tongue and lip tie, we were presented with a problem that we didn't know how to address. Breastfeeding is important to us and we really wanted to give it our best effort. Feeling overwhelmed after having an unsuccessful tongue tie revision, we turned to Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, C/NDT and the TalkTools team in the hopes that some oral motor therapy would help strengthen her tongue and jaw. We started doing oral motor exercises several times a day before breastfeeding and started seeing some improvement pretty quickly. Lori noticed that her tongue still seemed restricted (all long distance via video by the way, which I thought was especially impressive!). We ended up having a more thorough revision of her tongue, and also had her lip tie revised. Within a couple of weeks, we had a baby with a very strong suck and whose symptoms of gagging, choking, and being unable to hold a strong suck while feeding had disappeared. I truly believe that all the oral exercises we did beforehand contributed to the success we saw. Our daughter was five months old at the time and we are so grateful that at almost a year, she’s still breastfeeding."

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