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!
"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!
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.
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.