Maddox Before & After TalkTools® Oral Placement Therapy (OPT)
After our daughter Maddox was born, one of the first things her teacher said to us was, “Be sure that she can talk.” Not just any kind of talk, but it was critical that Maddox learn to speak clearly. As Miss Marie put it, “Intelligibility is what gives credibility.” She went on to say that kids with Down Syndrome are taken much more seriously when they are understood.
Along the same lines of language clarity, society also bases first impressions on what is visually appealing to them. As unfortunate as it seems, these statements are true.
Fortunately, the Down Syndrome Community has Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson and TalkTools® to thank for creating a program that gives our children a chance, a real fighting chance at their life.
TalkTools’ simple Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) programs can have a very significant impacts on your child’s entire future. Their techniques aim to improve the muscle strength and coordination of the mouth, which in turn produces increased feeding abilities, clearer articulation and consequently more visually appealing facial structures.
Think about it, we use physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve coordination for walking and crawling. We use occupational therapy to strengthen muscles and coordination for writing and hand use. Why would we not use speech therapy to strengthen muscles and improve coordination for speech?!
Let me explain how the program worked for us. An initial evaluation with a certified TalkTools Therapist allows them to identify your child’s oral weaknesses, and create a treatment plan for targeting and strengthening those muscles. After our initial evaluation with Sara, we received a packet of information in the mail. The most valuable contents being the home exercise program for us to follow with Maddox. It is was several pages long and extremely overwhelming initially. We did not want to be responsible for making a single mistake! It took my husband and I two weeks and many read throughs before we finally had the courage to sit down and implement the first (and only the first) exercise.
It’s kind of like taking that leap. Once you start, there is no turning back. We quickly realized that this was not as hard as we imagined, and that Maddox was actually having fun!
I’d like to share with you a little about what worked for our family. First, we purchased all the corresponding tools that were recommended in the evaluation and homework. I dug an old cosmetics organizing bag with handles out of the closet. We put the cheat sheet of exercise instructions in the bag along with all the tools and hung it on the corner of Maddox’s high chair.
This bag was a constant reminder to anyone who fed Maddox that there were exercises that needed to precede her meal. If two of us were home, one of us would sit and implement her program while the other would make the meal. If only one of us were home, we’d implement her program, then give her give her a few fun toys to play with as a reward during the meal prep.
Maddox’s nanny was also trained to implement the program. In addition, she received speech therapy two times a week, and her protocol was also administered during those sessions by her speech therapist.
We functioned like this from the time she was 20 months old until she was 40 months old. On a given day, Maddox would receive anywhere from four to six exposures of her program and absolutely never less than three times. When we started at 20 months, Maddox went from using 150 signs and having few sound imitations to speaking in two to three word sentences at 40 months of age.
It was also extremely important to us during that time to supplement general language with pictures, gestures, and/or sign language while Maddox was developing the muscle strength and coordination to speak. This way, when the two parts collided, (language development and oral development), we’d have a talker!
And that is exactly what happened!
By 48 months, Maddox was learning to put ‘ing’ and plural sounds on the ends of words. She was attending head start and used not one single sign! The photos above are before and after comparison photos of Maddox from 20 months of age to 40 months of age. And then for fun, there is a recent photo! I’ve also shared some videos of Maddox practicing her speech at home and in therapy to show just how great she is doing! We are so proud of her, and hope that other families will find the same success that we did for their children.