|School pictures from the LeeAnn Britain Center taken in October|
When Alayna was little I was instructed to do oral motor exercises on her to help her with feeding and to get her mouth get ready for speech. In being honest I did some but, I wasn't as great at doing these on a routine basis. When you have a child with down syndrome you get thrown a ton of information in those first few months. It took me a little while to sort through all the emotions, information and make a plan for what we were going to do with our little peanut.
Alayna could drink from a straw cup with only using her lips at an early age. However, she would sometimes let milk drool out. This showed me that she needed some extra strengthening in her mouth muscles. Before meals I would have her bite on a teething toy that when she bit down it vibrated (a couple bucks at Walmart) for 30 seconds (or longer if she would) then I would massage her cheeks and lips. After a month I could see the total difference that oral motor exercises made for her. She no longer took in too much liquid, or let any drool back out.
When I learned that our Down Syndrome Guild was bringing in Sara Rosenfeld Johnson, a speech therapist and oral motor specialist. I was thrilled to spend the morning soaking in more information that will help the girls.
Rosenfeld-Johnson said that her oral placement therapy is an exercise, PT program, for the mouth.
I learned loads about what I can be doing with the girls to improve their oral motor production which will improve the clarity of their speech in the long run. The goal is for everyone to understand everything the girls say. This is one HUGE goal I have for both girls.
Dariya still suckles even when drinking out of a cup or a straw (her tongue is wrapped around the straw or on the bottom of the cup). This is due to lack of jaw strength. She also grinds her teeth during waking hours, some not a lot. But, this is also a sign of jaw weakness. I have begun working on jaw strengthening exercises with Dariya. Examples are chewing on a chewy tube or anything that is hard to chew like licorice that has been left out to harden. I have also begun supporting her while she is only drinking out of a straw. Within the past week she has already begun to be able to use her lips only to suck up the liquid.
I will be doing the straw hierarchy with both girls as Alayna drinks and eats fine however, she sometimes still has her mouth open in a resting position especially when tired causing her to drool some. This open mouth will cause her to not be as clear when she is speaking.
One easy way & cheap therapy tool that I am using with Alayna is a tongue depressor. I have her put a tongue depressor in between her lips and hold it there, not using her teeth. Try it, it is a lip workout. We have been humming songs with our tongue depressors in our mouth and she thinks it is a blast. Cheap, fun and working on getting her to keep her lips closed all at the same time. Bonus!
Our materials are on their way and we look forward to using them and seeing how the girls progress in the next few months.
We will keep you updated as to our progress.
What are you doing with your child for oral motor exercises?
*As a disclaimer I am not soliciting this program nor the therapy tools we are purchasing. There are many ways to work on oral motor skills this is just one program I think will be effective for our girls.