Tagged "TalkTools News"

Grace Kauk's Oral Placement Therapy work in Bulgaria

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Grace Kauk writes about her Oral Placement Therapy work in Bulgaria.

"I met Steve and Tanja Pankratz over email in February of 2015. Three weeks later, I was making plans to move to Bulgaria.

The Pankratz' are missionaries in Bulgaria through SEND International. Their 8-year-old son, Jaden, has Down Syndrome. When he was born, God began to show them how great the needs were among the Bulgarian special needs community, and over the years, special needs has become the focus of their work here. Along with some like-minded people, they created a new foundation, called Nova Stupke (meaning "New Steps") to be a platform for serving special needs individuals and their families. The work is in its infancy, but so far includes family summer camps, a home visitation program, a school assistance program, and a special needs day center. I came to Bulgaria primarily to be Jaden's teacher, but also to help with the larger ministry in any way I can. I arrived in November of 2015, and if God is willing, I will stay until summer of 2017.

As I prepared to travel, SMILE on Down syndrome, our local parent network, offered to help outfit me with supplies. As I thought about what tools I most wanted to bring with me for Jaden, OPT supplies were at the top of my list. My sister has Down syndrome, and while there are many therapies that helped her over years, the value of the interventions created by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson simply cannot be overstated. I wanted that value for Jaden. I knew I could make my own flashcards and math manipulatives - but I didn't want to skimp on oral placement tools. I prayed. SMILE contacted TalkTools on my behalf. And we asked for a donation.

TalkTools helped me figure out what tools we would need for Jaden and sent an abundance of supplies not only for him, but enough for us to make OPT a significant part of what Nova Stupke offers families. One of the happiest moments of my life was opening that box!

TalkTools | Grace Kauk in Bulgaria

So now I have been here six months. I work with Jaden about 4 hours each day, and we are best friends. As part of my work with him, I am using the Jaw Grading Bite Blocks, the Horn and Straw Hierarchies, and the Bubble Blowing Hierarchy. Jaden is making progress in all of those. He has gone from being unable to blow a bubble to blowing them a distance of 3 feet. Recently, we saw a huge increase in Jaden's expressive language, especially his sentence length. OPT is not the only reason for that, but I know that the bubbles were an important piece for him.

In addition to my work with Jaden, I've had the privilege of introducing the tools to the Nova Stupke team-members and explaining when they are indicated and how they are used. Besides Jaden, there are currently two other children who are receiving some OPT. I have met dozens more who would benefit.

At my request, TalkTools included A Three-Part Treatment Plan for Oral Placement Therapy video-on-demand and some other training materials. I am especially grateful for that. When you are a parent or a layperson (like myself) trying to help a child without access to professional support, it means the world to have the chance to educate yourself. I personally refer to those materials over and over, and have encouraged other workers to do the same.

It is my hope that as we grow our program this summer and fall, we will be able to serve many more children with this therapy. I am so grateful to TalkTools for resourcing us."

Before Grace worked with Jaden, he had tongue placement issues, particularly when drinking and when saying /s/ and /z/. He is also hyperactive and has a quite short attention span. She is videotaping Jaden's siblings modeling the exercises correctly and with good behavior to help him see what is expected of him. Discrete video modeling is very effective for Jaden and he regularly gets four 15 minutes sessions of it daily.

Jaden's mom, Tanja, says: "Thank you for the privilege of being recipients of the TalkTools oral motor resources. We are extremely grateful for your generosity, not only to our son but to the children we are working with through our "New Steps" Foundation. As Grace mentioned, we are in the beginning stages but pray that we can help make a difference in these children's lives. The need is great and we have focused this last year on training our staff and experimenting with a variety of different services, including school assistance, Portage Early Intervention Program, and just recently were able to open a modular day center for special needs children. We are trying to assess where the greatest needs are and where to focus our efforts, which we will define this summer after evaluating these last 8 months. Grace graciously did a training seminar on TalkTools Therapy for our staff. It is now available for them to use and Grace has offered to consult them along the way. As our staff gets confident and comfortable in using these tools, they will be extremely helpful in their work with special needs children. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

TalkTools | Grace Kauk in Bulgaria   TalkTools | Grace Kauk in Bulgaria

Grace Kauk's trip is entirely funded by donations. The goal of her trip is to empower therapists and parents in Bulgaria to help children with special needs, and Jaden in particular. Because Bulgaria doesn't have good resources for special needs children, Jaden's various developmental needs are evaluated through video appointments with neurodevelopmentalists in the US. Grace is the "hands on the ground" responsible for implementing his therapy assignments. Grace says about Bulgaria: "Children with special needs are typically not admitted to schools. Families truly have little to no help figuring out their children's developmental needs. Special needs families who chose to raise rather than institutionalize their children have an uphill battle. If schools do not accept their special needs children, the family is in danger of impoverishment because of the child's needs. In order for them to be financially solvent, we anticipate setting up a sponsorship program for scholarships for the kids."

Nove Stupke also recently implemented a home visitation program to best answer Bulgaria families' needs. Portage trainers from Russia and England have trained Nova Stupke's staff. Portage is a highly family centered organization, in line with Bulgaria families' needs. Grace says: "We help the parents set developmental goals that will make life easier in their families. Sometimes it is surprising what the parents' priority is, and it may not be what the therapist would have chosen, but it is what matters to them. Then we guide them with what they can do to work toward those goals, and the family is accountable to do those activities."

Grace can be reached via comments below.

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Inspiring testimonials from ASHA 2015: vote for your favorite today!

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

Celebrating 30 years

In celebration of 30 years of successful therapy we asked you to share your success stories with us and the response was amazing!

Here are our three favorite videos. We hope you enjoy and you will cast your vote to help us determine the grand prize winner.


Vote closes January 10, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST.


Emily Chandler, M.Ed, CCC-SLP, BCaBA

“My name is Emily Chandler, I am a Speech Language Pathologist from Atlanta. I was first introduced to TalkTools several years ago. I met Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson and took some more courses. Later I began taking some courses with Lori Overland and her sensory-motor approach to feeding, which truly (in addition to the previous courses) really impacted my overall approach to therapy, and really enhanced my skill set, specifically with feeding, but as well as with speech, through the oral placement therapy techniques and applications. Her class, I love so much I actually ended up taking a second time and because of what I learned and gained from that course, I had several clients that were impacted. I had a child that was not hardly eating at all and now we’ve got them to regular diet with thick liquid consistencies, through a home program that we put together based on her program and the applications and the theories behind it. And in addition to that, I’ve had clients that I’ve have been presented with no consonance at three years of age, with just vowels, and use of the tools and truly understanding the application and the development of motor and the theories behind it really impacted my skill set and changed my practice completely. I recommend the courses to everyone. I’ve purchased the books as gifts for friends and I’ve even now opened my own clinic and I have a full caseload of clients that are really successful and that’s because of everything I’ve learned through these courses. So I’m very grateful for all the hard work they’ve done and I really appreciate it.”

Therese McCoy, MS, CCC-SLP

“Hi, I’m Therese McCoy. I currently live in America’s Georgia (I previously lived in Texas). I wanted to say “thank you, Sara. I learned so very much from you.” 17 years ago in Texas, I attended a conference for five days in Austin. I went to that conference because when I started working for early childhood intervention and making home visits - I have been an adult therapist prior to that -, I walked in to this very first home visit and there was a two year old standing with an open mouth with oatmeal running out of his mouth. And as I was smiling and shaking the parents’ hands, I said to myself: “I have no idea how to help this kiddo right now.” And that lead to the conference. Fast forward a few years, kids with severe impairments became my passion and my love, even though I always thought I would be an adult therapist. And I was really proud to say I really knew what to do with these kids. So, I want to say “thanks.” A lot of kids have benefited from what you taught me, and a lot of families have benefited from what you taught me. Because it was always the family that was really the center of the therapy. Because those moms and dads, they needed to do whatever it was that we were doing and know why. The hierarchical approach to everything really made a difference in all of those kids’ lives. And again, thanks, I appreciate it.”

Elizabeth Riedemann, MS, CCC-SLP

“Hi, I’m Elizabeth Riedemann, I’ve been a Speech Pathologist for forty years. In recent times, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a young lady who has Down Syndrome. When I started working with her, she was fourteen and was very unintelligible. At the time I assessed her, she was approximately twenty percent intelligible in connected speech. Her previous therapist had thought that her speech would never be intelligible and had focused on using automated communication or some other type of systems to get her to communicate. Her mother noticed that as she was entering at a lessons she was becoming more and more withdrawn in family events and would not communicate with her cousins or participate in any type of family activity. The mother requested funding from one of her state agencies and the young girl was approved for services through an agency that I just happened to work for since I retired from the schools. My initial therapy on this girl was not very successful but I had the privilege of seeing Renee Roy-Hill at our state speech convention and Renee’s ideas and speech therapy for people with Down Syndrome really changed how I did my therapy with this young lady and I started using several of their products as well as taking some of their online courses. It really changed my approach with this girl. I truly believe that she also had underlying Apraxia although that wasn’t diagnosed. And utilizing the techniques and materials that TalkTools offers in the three years that I’ve worked with her, she is now at seventy percent intelligibility in connected speech. The services, products are just amazing. I use a lot of their strategies in my therapy with other students. I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to use these materials and these concepts and strategies with this young lady and that she is now part of her family and is talking and expressing her wants, needs and desires. Thank you.”

We are incredibly appreciative of those who shared their stories, let us know if you have a story to tell.

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