Tagged "special needs"


TalkTools sponsors a multi-disciplinary trip to Ghana

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

My name is Jenna Kobara and I am an occupational therapist (OT) who recently returned from my third trip to Ankamu, Ghana where I had the opportunity to work with children with disabilities. I was part of a multi-disciplinary team led by my mentor, Bonnie Nakasuji, an OT, who recently received an international service award from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) for her work. Since 2003, Bonnie has led a multi-disciplinary team comprised of therapists (occupational, physical, speech-language pathologist), OT students, teachers, health professionals (e.g., optometrist), as well as other volunteers to work with children with physical and mental disabilities at the Mephibosheth Training Center (MTC). MTC is a boarding school founded in 2005 by co-directors Pastor Joseph Jehu-Appiah and his wife, Andrea Jehu-Appiah, who is a physical therapist from the United States. The goal of the school is to teach children with physical and/or mental challenges to become productive members of society by providing them with education and training in academia, activities of daily living, and vocational skills. MTC serves over 70 students ranging from 7 to 25 years old who present with a variety of suspected diagnoses including cerebral palsy, post-polio syndrome, Down syndrome, and autism spectrum disorder. While at MTC our team provides rehabilitative treatment for students and educational support to MTC staff, in addition to assessments, consults, and equipment repair for adults and children with disabilities within the surrounding communities. 

TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana

Each year, our team brings donations of shoes and clothing, basic school supplies, medical supplies, and therapy equipment such as orthotics, adaptive feeding utensils, walkers, and wheelchairs. This year we were fortunate enough to have received a generous donation from TalkTools that included bite tubes, Honey Bears, flex straws, straw kits, and horn kits to use with the students at MTC. Prior to the trip our therapists were invited to participate in a free TalkTools’ Three-Part Treatment Plan to Oral Placement Therapy course to prepare for using the treatment materials. Melissa Sun, an SLP, joined our team this year for the first time and took the lead with introducing the TalkTools equipment to the students and community families. Many of the children at MTC have limited mobility, poor control, and reduced strength in their upper limbs and head/neck. As a result, drinking water is a difficult task and often requires peers to assist with drinking from an open cup. This practice exemplifies community support and kindness, but leaves children dependent on another person and subject to unsafe swallowing and aspiration. To help remedy the situation, our team used honey bears and flex-straws in existing cups to promote independence and safety when accessing drinking water. In addition, some of the children presented with poor intelligibility and saliva management, specifically as a result of poor lip closure and decreased oral awareness. The horn and straw kits were motivational and helpful tools for increasing oral awareness and introducing concepts related to oral placement for speech production. Within a week, students demonstrated improved response to verbal prompts and visual cues to demonstrate increased lip closure and rounding in speech production tasks. Even the MTC students who presented with functional speech production also joined in the fun, especially with the horns. Things got a little loud at times, but their laughter and smiles were worth the noise.

TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana

In our community assessments, we found that some of the children presented with oral motor weakness impacting both feeding and speech production. Many of these children did not appropriately use their teeth to chew, and instead mashed foods using their tongues or waited until the food dissolved. To help these children, we provided education and instruction to their families using bite-tubes, foods wrapped in tulle, and placement techniques, such as a slow feed, to demonstrate appropriate placement of foods on back molars for mastication. We also taught families how to provide oral sensory input using a Nuk brush to increase oral awareness and manage tactile sensitivity. Although our two-week trip was not enough time to see significant results across all of the children we worked with, we feel that the resources and materials that TalkTools provided helped us to introduce skills and techniques that will serve as a strong foundation to supporting the speech production and feeding skills for future trips to come. Our team will be going back next year and we will continue to work on these same goals! Thank you TalkTools for your generosity and support!

-Jenna Kobara

TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana TalkTools sponsors trip to Ghana

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Sharing the gift of TalkTools with those living on Roatan, Honduras

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Kerry Tichi, MS CCC/SLP received a donation from TalkTools a few months ago to use with children and young adults with special needs during her trip to Roatan, Honduras. She writes about her experience and the impact it made on this population.

"It is with much privilege and gratitude that I have been able to share the gift of TalkTools with those living on Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. Certified with TalkTools as a Level II Speech/Language Pathologist, I spent one week assessing and putting a basic treatment plan in place, for students who attend CATTLEYA, a small school for children and young adults with special needs. The plan, collaborating with TalkTools President, Luke Blessinger, was to arrive with a suitcase full of TalkTools material, do a brief evaluation on each student, implement a program plan for those students in need of Oral Placement Therapy, and train teachers and parents on the basics of TalkTools and the specifics for each child. 

Having lived on Roatan for three years, back in 2014, where my focus was on teaching English to an impoverished community, I had only briefly met a few parents and children with disabilities. For cultural and economical reasons, girls often do not receive as much education as boys in Honduras. As you might imagine, those with handicaps receive even less. Less respect, less dignity, less opportunities…less life. Thankfully, a strong, dedicated group of parents of children with disabilities there, has created more. More awareness, more opportunities, more dignity, more respect, more life.

  

CATTLEYA is an established NGO on Roatan, Honduras whose mission is to advocate for those with disabilities on the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is associated with the Honduran National Federation of Parents of People with Disabilities (FENAPAPEDISH) and is managed by its dedicated group of volunteer parents of children and young adults with disabilities. The goal of Cattleya is to reach every child, providing guidance and resources, to help achieve their full intellectual capability and integration as a functioning member of society.

TalkTools | CattleyaCATTLEYA is named in honor of a young girl, Mia Cattleya, born with Down Syndrome who sadly, passed away many years ago due to heart complications. It is also the name of a beautiful orchid, representing life and possibility. It has grown from a small group of concerned mothers in 2010. It operates CEDICA, (Centro Educativo de Desarillo Inclusivo CATTLEYA), a small school for those with disabilities. Currently, the school serves approximately 20 children and young adults ranging in age from 3 to 22 years.

Initially, all students were assessed, ranging in diagnoses from Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, West Syndrome, Autism, Developmental delay to undiagnosed. Additionally, another 10 children were assessed, who heard about my being on island via Facebook, television announcement, and/or word of mouth. By week's end, a TalkTools program plan was put in place for more than half of the children. All of the teachers, a few parents, and a retired SLP on island were trained in proper positioning, the components of standard speech production, the how and why of the chewing, straw, and horn hierarchies, and the criteria needed to advance to the next level. While it was a lot of information given over a little bit of time, we will continue to “talk” via email and video to provide ongoing education. Additionally, a follow-up trip will take place in three months time.

  

While I knew in my heart I could be of service, never did I imagine to what great extent!  With TalkTools help, and assistance of others interested, together we can make a lasting impact on this community. As this outreach grows, paired with trainings in typical speech/language development and intervention strategies, more children on island will be identified and reached. Using our skills and talents, offered in a culturally relevant way, within a locally driven, extremely receptive organization, can greatly assist those, too often marginalized in a 3rd world country like Honduras. Thank you TalkTools for partnering in this venture!"

-Kerry Tichi, MS CCC/SLP

  

Over the past 2+ years, CEDICA has grown from a two-room space within a clinic to a free standing beautifully renovated building. While they have come far, there is still much work to be done! Current needs include raising funds to:

1-Hire a Special Education Teacher/Administrator to oversee and guide program development.

2-Sponsor children/ young adults with disabilities so that they can afford to attend this school.

3-Provide ongoing Continuing Education for teachers and parents to increase knowledge.

4-Provide ongoing Evaluation and assessment of students and programs

5-Advocate for individuals with disabilities and increase awareness on the Bay Islands.

6-Improve the website to increase exposure, facilitating sustainability.

7-Begin planning for implementation of a vocational program.

In US dollars CATTLEYA's current monthly budget based on planned projections according to the above is $4623.70 and their actual capacity based on 2016 income generated by sponsorship, donations, board activities plus parent contributions is $3063.79.  CATTLEYA is short $1559.91 and is basically the reason they have not been able to have a FT Administrator/Special Education teacher, are lacking in specialized training, and have a limited capacity to reach more children and families.

If this resonates with you, contact CATTLEYA to make a donation today

Kerry can be reached via comments below. 

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Success Story | Cora Rose

Posted by Admin TalkTools on

Miss Cora Rose, a TalkTools® client since an infant, will be featured in a 60-second Super Bowl commercial tomorrow night!

She has been modeling for a shoe company called Livie and Luca under the "Changing the Face of Beauty" movement (pictures below) ... And now is featured in a SunTrust commercial "Hold Your Breath" (video below), kicking off a movement to help millions of Americans move from financial stress to financial confidence. It's a huge win for people with special needs.

Cora, her family and her TalkTools® therapist Heather (Peterson) Vukelich are part of an organization called the Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area. Heather works inside the doors of the organization, and Cora and her family are members. The organization's mission is "to empower, inspire and support people with Down syndrome, their families and the community that serves them, while fostering awareness and acceptance in all areas of life".

TalkTools | Cora Rose  TalkTools | Cora Rose TalkTools | Cora Rose

Photo credit: Livie & Luca's Spring 2016 Catalog shoot

Read her story in her mom and therapist's words:

"I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of Cora’s ride :)   She and her mother Kerri are truly a blessing to me, and have taught me SO much.  That’s the best part of a job as a therapist… You start out thinking you are helping others, when in reality it’s the children and families that teach us the most about ourselves and life :)

Cora is a 4 year old little girl who is constantly breaking the mold and diving deep into the hearts of the people around her.  Cora started TalkTools® when she was an infant with the support of her mother, Kerri.  It’s Kerri’s consistency and tenacity that has made all the difference for Cora and her speech and facial development through the years.  Starting TalkTools® at such a young age not only has helped to facilitate more normalized speech and feeding development, but it’s also ensured that million dollar smile of hers!  Both Cora and Kerri have worked hard to achieve all of the sounds in her repertoire and her oral movements to support those sounds.  The most beautiful reward of all is hearing Cora’s little voice and the funny phrases she likes to use to amuse the people around her. Some of Cora’s favorite phrases these days are “Hi Honey!” (thanks to grandma), “ Have a good day!,” “Not a good idea!,” and “Oh boys!"

Cora is an absolute blessing to those around her and is unexpectedly broadening her reach to SO many with the incredible opportunities that have been sharing her with the world through the “Changing the Face of Beauty” movement, the Livie and Luca shoe company,  and now Suntrust Bank.   As with all people with differing abilities, Cora continues to teach us joy, acceptance, the benefits of hard work, and of course what life is really about: LOVE!"

   - Heather (Peterson) Vukelich, MS SLP-CCC (Danville, CA)

"Two years ago, Cora was part of a promotional campaign for Easter Seals of the Bay Area (she was receiving early intervention services through them at the time). The photographer commented that she was a natural with the camera and suggested I look into modeling. My main motivation for pursuing this with her was to hopefully change common misconceptions about what it looks like to have Down syndrome. I feel like the more exposure people have to individuals of all abilities, the more accepting they will be. Some companies have committed to be more inclusive in their advertising as shown by Cora's catalog work for the children's shoe company Livie & Luca. Not only have they included children of all abilities but they have supported organizations that assist children with special needs.

As far as the Super Bowl commercial, Cora went on an audition through her modeling agency and won them over!  On set, the crew was enamored with her and impressed at how quickly they got the shot.  She has a very agreeable nature, seems to enjoy having her picture taken, and follows directions really well.  She has a natural ability to connect with people. Her joy is contagious! I applaud SunTrust for the inclusive nature of their ad and for recognizing the beauty and value of every individual."

   - Kerri Slocum

And ... Here's the commercial:

TalkTools | Cora Rose TalkTools | Cora Rose

Photo credit: SunTrust 2016

Hopefully, Cora's story will inspire other parents to advocate for their child the way Kerri does, and companies to keep including individuals with special needs.

 


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