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Posted on 10th May 2017
Hello! About 1 week ago my husband and I got a confirmed diagnosis of Down syndrome for our upcoming baby girl. I want to help my little flower as much as possible and start as soon as possible! What tools are recommended for starting at an early age? We are very excited to help our little girl be the best she can be and we want to start right away if it is safe.
Congratulations on your soon-to-be-born baby girl! You have such a blessing on the way!
I’m glad you reached out, there are definitely some things you can do early on and along the way. I’d recommend reading this blog post first - I wrote that for a new mom who asked a similar question.
That article will explain in more detail the products and skills touched on below, but to summarize the recommended products and approximately when to use them:
At about 6 months old, cup drinking can start (best not to use spouted sippy cups). Flexi Cups are great beginner cups since they have a cut-out for the nose, and they’re flexible so you can help guide the liquid.
It can vary depending on the child and their therapist’s recommendations, but a lot of people start using the Z-Vibe at about 6-8 months to help “wake up” the mouth and/or de-sensitize. The Z-Vibe has lots of different kit options with lots of different tip attachments. I'd recommend the Carry Kit, customized with a Soft Mini Tip, Soft Brush Tip (for gum massage), and Hard Textured Spoon Tip. Plus if budget allows, a Soft Mouse Tip (sold separately from the kit) is fun and functional, too. Down the road, her therapist may recommend other tip attachments depending on what other skills she might need to work on, but those are great all-around starter tips for now.
When she starts eating with a spoon / puréed foods, use the Z-Vibe with the Textured Spoon Tip attachment to provide more input (with the Z-Vibe on or off).
When she’s old enough to follow directions, this book has a lot of great info for working on oral motor skills.
Usually at about 2 to 2.5 years old you can graduate from baby teethers to chew tools for older kids (like the Grabber or Y-Chew). These can be used to work on specific oral motor skills as well as building oral tone in general.
Just keep all of the above in mind with a grain of salt - as the age recommendations are general guidelines and may vary.
Ideally the best thing would be to find a speech therapist with oral motor experience who can guide you through all of the above and make more specific recommendations tailored to her needs. But I hope some of the above is helpful in the meantime :)
Question: I work with a child who has Down Syndrome. She is 16 months old. She presents with open mouth posture and tongue thrusting not during feeding. Mom purchased a Z-vibe and I saw your article on using the Z-vibe to promote lip closure. Only problem is....anytime we go near her [...]
Below are directions for a Straw / Lip Blok program I've used with many of my kids over the years. I usually do this in conjunction with tongue thrust therapy when their swallowing pattern needs to be changed. And it also helps work on oral tone and tongue retraction. . . What You'll Need: 1. Krazy Straws. [...]
Question: I am an SLP seeing a 8 year old student with a tongue thrust. What products would be the best for addressing the tongue thrust? How long does it usually take for them to affect a change in a child's lingual placement? . Great question. For tongue thrust therapy, I use the protocol outlined in the book [...]
Tongue tip elevation is the ability to lift the tip of one's tongue up to the alveolar ridge (the spot just behind the upper front teeth). As a shorthand, we often call this location "on spot," as in, "get your tongue tip on spot!" Tongue tip elevation is an oral motor skill necessary to say certain speech [...]
For any therapist seeking to specialize in feeding, the best piece of advice I could give you is to become a sponge. Take courses and workshops, read as many articles as you can, talk to and learn from your colleagues, join special interest groups on Facebook and ASHA etc., follow blogs, observe other therapy sessions, [...]
Question: I'm working with a client who has Down syndrome. She can't differentiate her tongue from her bottom lip when drinking from a straw. I've tried having her drink from a straw using a Lip block to see if that helps, but the tongue still just takes over everything. Any ideas? . . I always recommend getting children on straws (ideally with [...]
Lip closure (also known as lip seal) is the ability to close one's lips around a spoon, straw, cup, etc. It's also important in order to say certain speech sounds, such as /p/b/m/, and it's a factor in preventing drooling. . . Recently I was working with a 9-year-old child who has Angelman syndrome. The mother was asking if there was [...]
Whenever a parent asks me what they can do to improve their child’s oral motor skills, one of my first questions is usually: Are they drinking from straws yet? Drinking from a straw is a very simple yet effective way of improving one’s oral motor skills. It works on lip seal, tongue retraction, cheek strength, correct [...]
For the K, G, and Y sounds, the back of the tongue elevates to the palate. One of my favorite "tricks" to assist back of tongue elevation is to use the Z-Vibe with the Hard Spoon Tip. . . Place the bowl of the Spoon Tip on the tip of the tongue, and then have the child say [...]