TETHERED ORAL TISSUES
The Mayo Clinic has indicated that tongue tie can affect the way an individual eats, speaks, swallows and can interfere with breastfeeding.
With the topic of TOTs comes some controversy, and speech-language pathologists are often left confused in their own role of diagnosing and treating TOTs.
TOTs experts Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP and Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, C/NDT, CLC have created a comprehensive, evidence-based program to assist in the identification and functional implications of TOTs.
The Merkel-Walsh and Overland TOTs Protocol is explained in the new co-authored book, Functional Assessment and Remediation of TOTs (Tethered Oral Tissues).
This practical speech and feeding program includes a pre- and post-surgical treatment plan to avoid long-term issues, such as scarring and reattachment.
"Tongue on a Shelf" exercise from the book, Functional Assessment and Remediation of TOTs
The live workshop "Functional Assessment and Remediation of TOTs" (0.6 ASHA/AOTA-approved CEUs) explores the functional assessment of TOTs and reviews current well-respected assessment tools which describe structure. With these tools, Robyn and Lori have developed the Merkel-Walsh & Overland TOTs Protocol, which looks at structure, oral motor function, pre-feeding, feeding and speech. Participants learn to use this tool to identify the possible need for a TOTs referral, and the functional impact this diagnosis may have on feeding and speech. Their unique style of “task analysis” is a practical strategy for assessment that is immediately carried over into developing a treatment program for neuro-muscular re-education.
Participants learn through the concept of task analysis the specific ways in which TOTs impacts the oral motor and oral placement skills for breast, bottle, cup, straw and solid feedings in addition to speech sound production. Videos and live practicums with attendee participation provide therapeutic intervention tasks that participants can implement with their clients immediately. The importance of pre- and post-surgical therapy will be discussed, and surgical techniques will be explored so that therapists may be have a better understanding of the current research across disciplines on an international level.
Participants will be able to:
- list three forms of TOTs.
- identify at least 3-5 functional impacts of TOTs on feeding skills.
- list at least 3 speech sounds that may be affected by TOTS.
- to list at least 2 professionals that should be consulted if TOTs is suspected after a functional assessment.
Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP
Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP has specialized for over 24 years in OPT, myofunctional disorders and feeding disorders. She is employed by the Ridgefield Board of Education, runs a private practice in Ridgefield, NJ, is the board chair of the Oral Motor Institute, and is a member of the TalkTools® speakers bureau. She teaches TOTs, Autism and Tongue Thrust courses in addition to multiple webinars on topics including but not limited to lisps, oral structure, Orofacial Myofunctional Disorder, feeding and clinical parameters for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Robyn has been invited to speak on Oral Placement disorders by Conversations in Speech Pathology, Bergen County Region V, the IAOM, The Apraxia Network, AAPPSPA and the MOSAIC Foundation. Robyn has received specialized training in Oral Placement Disorders, feeding, apraxia, Applied Behavioral Analysis, autism, cranio-facial anomalies, Beckman Techniques and PROMPT and is on track to become an IAOM Certified Orofacial Myologist.
WHY I BECAME AN SLP... I went to Montclair State College (now University) as a dance major. My first semester wasn't going well as I caught a bad cold that turned into bronchitis and sinusitis. The intense demands of performance classes didn't allow for absences. As an honors student, I never received a bad grade and I was afraid of failing. My aunt Janine was working as an SLP clinical supervisor on campus. I went to meet her to get a care package. I saw her working through the clinical two-way mirror doing speech therapy with a baby. It just hit me that I wanted to help people in that same way. I changed my major that month to Communication Sciences and Disorders and I was on my way!
MY OPT STORY... Once again, it was my Aunt Janine who taught me about Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson and what was then "Innovative Therapists International" (now TalkTools). I saw Sara teach at the NJSHA convention and I was hooked, even when when my professor told me that blowing horns couldn't help articulation. I already knew it isn't just about the horn, because it is about the hierarchy and the feel of speech. I continued my training with Sara and Lori as well as the great masters including: Bahr, Beckman, Marshalla and the IAOM. I reached out to Sara directly in 1998 because I had been developing a Myofunctional program (SMILE) in my school system because traditional methods weren't working. Sara insisted we meet, and she and her husband Phil agreed to publish my program as long as I agreed to teach it. The rest is history. I've dedicated my entire career to the TalkTools family and our extended family - the people we are able to help through our methods and programs. My role is not only author and lecturer, but most importantly an advocate for evidence based practices that support the work we do.
Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, C/NDT, CLC
Lori Overland, MS, CCC-SLP, N/NDT, CLC is a speech and language pathologist with more than 36 years of professional experience. Lori specializes in dealing with the unique needs of infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers and school-aged children with oral sensory-motor, feeding and oral placement/speech disorders. She has received an award from the Connecticut Down Syndrome Association for her work within this population. Lori consults with children from all over the world, providing evaluations, re-evaluations, program plans and week-long therapy programs. Lori also provides consults to local school districts and Birth-to-Three organizations. Her goal in addressing feeding and speech challenges is to improve the quality of life for both the children she serves and their families. In addition to her private practice, Alphabet Soup, Lori is a member of the TalkTools® speakers bureau. Lori has lectured on sensory-motor feeding disorders across the United States and internationally. She teaches TOTs, Feeding and Down Syndrome courses in addition to her pre-feeding webinar. Lori holds degrees from Hofstra University and Adelphi University and has her neurodevelopmental certification and is a certified lactation counselor.
WHY I BECAME AN SLP... It’s crazy… but I was a pre-law major undergrad. After two semesters of required classes (still not sure how biology is related to pre law) and introduction to justice research, writing and reasoning, I was closed out of an introduction to judicial process course (that I am sure would have been equally boring and just as much writing!). One of my friends was registered for an introduction to speech and hearing sciences class that fulfilled an elective requirement. Needing to fill my schedule, I reluctantly signed up for the course. The professor was the most entertaining and interesting speakers I had thus far in college. One class led to another and before I knew it I had a dual major, and the unintended major was much more appealing. When my “future” sister in-law, who was coincidentally an SLP, invited me to spend the day observing her practice, I was hooked. It was easy to give up reading law briefs to work with children!
MY OPT STORY... The phone rang and a woman introduced herself as Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson. Sara said, “I never get reports from Speech Pathologists that talk about feeding, do you want a job?” Who is this crazy lady, I thought. I thanked her and graciously declined the offered, wondering who would offer a job to someone they had not met. Sara was persistent and talked me in to a co-treat session with this child we were sharing.
My journey as an SLP, at that time, was filled with more questions than answers. Some of my frustrations included how I should work with children who did not have the underlying motor skills to support intelligible speech (and could not look, listen and imitate the sound) and WHY I was asked to write language goals to increase the length of utterance in a child who was unintelligible to the uncued listener. Sara was the first therapist I met who was looking at underlying motor skills. Many years before she defined OPT, she was asking the question "Where does your mouth have to be to make the sound?" and looking at the underlying motor skills to support intelligible speech. I DID take the job the “crazy” lady (who became my good friend and mentor!) offered me, and it changed the way I evaluate and treat my clients. It opened the door for me to apply similar task analysis to the motor skills used for safe, nutritive feeding and allowed me to figure out why so many of my clients were picky or problem eaters. This career has always been more of a marathon than a sprint, and the day I hit the finish line I will retire!
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