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Lindsey

For Parents, Little Friends

Baby Gift Ideas

I am going to be an aunt! (Again!)

This will be my first niece and my first niece/nephew since beginning my career as an SLP! Lemme tell ya. I. went. to. town. on her baby shower gifts.

I had so much fun shopping for her and wanted to pass along a few gift ideas for those of you about to welcome a new little nugget into the world! Here is what I bought for my sweet niece:

 

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Let’s break it down!

 

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Farm Animals and Bath Toys

Bath time is such a fun way to spend focused time on language. Farm animals are some of my favorite toys for my youngest patients for so many reasons! You can use them to work on vocabulary, colors, verbs, and silly animal sounds. I particularly like animal sounds because they provide such an easy syllable shape (CVCV or consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel) for babies to imitate. They also typically contain early developing phonemes. (A good rule-of-thumb for what speech sounds are easiest to produce- the further forward in your mouth a sound happens, the easier it is to imitate because it’s easier to see! Think: “moomoo” “baabaa”!)

 

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Cause And Effect Toys

Work on early play skills and joint attention with toys similar to this! Anything with a button that teaches the baby “if I do ‘this’, then ‘that’ happens!” Bonus: cause and effect toys are sure to make that kiddo laugh and laugh! It’s always funny when adults pretend to be startled!

 

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Teething Toys

If you read my previous blog post then you know how strongly I feel about babies learning to mouth! The pacifier on the left is unique because it has a bumpy texture to it- which I love for giving baby a variety of sensory input. The necklace in the middle is a stylish way for the baby to have access to a clean teether, even on-the-go. There are so many cute styles of teething jewelry these days! On the right, we have a practice tooth brush. It’s never too early to start practicing so your child doesn’t have an aversion when teeth start coming in.

 

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Food Toys

You can use play food to work on vocabulary, joint attention, and functional play routines. Your baby will love feeding you as you make silly “omnomnom” sounds! You can use foods to work on turn-taking as well and perhaps you can even get some imitation of “mmmmm” or eating sounds.

I chose this particular set of play food because of the variety in texture. Not only will this help baby explore their sensory world but it provides a great opportunity for language! Here we have hard, soft, crinkly, shiny, and so much more!

 

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Books

ALL THE BOOKS! I chose this one because it was repetitive, has great language opportunities with its touch-and-feel pages, and it’s a board book. Books books books. You really can’t go wrong. A few of my favorites are Brown Bear, Hop on Pop, 5 Little Monkeys, and Are You My Mother. It is so important to our kiddos language development that we read to them from a young age.

 

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Fruit Feeder

I bring these to every baby shower I go to. I love this for safely exploring new flavors from an early age. These are also featured in here my mouthing blog post. It is so important for babies to experience a variety of flavors in the world so that when the time comes to transition to solid foods, they are ready!

 

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An ADORABLE OUTFIT!

This has nothing to do with speech therapy. It’s just precious and 100% necessary.

 

I hope this post gives you some ideas the next time you’re buying a baby gift! The only other items I didn’t buy for my niece that I would also recommend would be some jumbo knob puzzles for fine motor development, a fill-and-spill toy (these target another great early play skill), a munchkin 360 cup (better for oral motor development than a sippy cup), and an amazing parenting book called Parenting With Love and Logic, whose principles have helped me in my own therapy room.

 

Happy shopping and congrats to the expecting families! Such a blessing!

-Lindsey

Feeding, For Parents, Little Friends

Why Babies Mouth and How We Can Encourage

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“Did your child mouth as an infant?”

I ask this question all the time to the parents of kiddos with severe speech delays, picky eating habits, and other oral motor deficits.
More often than not, the answer is “not very much” or a flat out “no.”

Sounds like a dream, right? A baby who isn’t liable to choke on any little piece of who-knows-what lying on the floor? Jackpot!?

F A L S E

Why Mouthing Is Important:

Mouthing helps babies explore their world from a sensory and oral motor standpoint. They are learning about textures, tastes, and temperatures that will provide them with a solid foundation to move on from purees to solid foods (get it?) and avoid a picky eating rut. Additionally, they will begin to move their tongue and jaw in new, fun, and interesting ways. These movements will later develop into a mature chewing pattern that will allow them to eat a healthy variety of solid foods and help them produce lovely consonant sounds. As if all that wasn’t enough reason to encourage mouthing… it also helps the baby’s gag reflex move from the front to the back of their mouths.

Mouthing starts with the rooting reflex. This reflex is innate from birth and allows an infant to turn and attempt to suckle anything  that touches its face. The rooting reflex begins to diminish around the age of 4 months. At this same time, babies begin to gain the ability to bring their hands to their mouth. This is the opening of our mouthing window.

While it may be extremely convenient to not fear for your child’s safety due to the little babe putting ev.ery.thing. in his or her mouth… it may bite you later.

So what can we do?

  1. Provide lots of safe toys to mouth and gnaw on. You may even go as far as modeling what to do with these objects. That’s correct, adult reading this. I want you to put baby toys in your mouth. Lick and chew and move them around. Let that baby watch what to do.
  2. Make it a game. Think “puppy dog” and be silly so baby laugh and think its a fun game. Maybe they’ll be more willing to join in.
  3. Add some flavor. Try dipping an easy-to-wash toy in a juice or favorite puree to increase interest for the child.
  4. Make it cold. Place a toy in the freezer and see if it makes it more enjoyable. Again, we’re thinking about increasing sensory information.
  5. Provide texture. (sensory sensory sensory) We want bumpy toys. Soft toys. Squishy toys. ALL the toys! Bonus points for the language opportunities here.
  6. When your baby explores (safe) objects with their mouth, give praise. Make it a pleasurable experience and they are more likely to repeat their actions.

 

 

Some great options for mouthing can be found at your local retailers:

 

The Boon PULP Silicone Teething Feeder allows you to place a variety of flavors for your baby to safely explore and enjoy. Perhaps a juicy piece of watermelon or a frozen peeled grape? Yum!

 

 

 

A cute teething necklace like this one by BEBE by Me is another great option – you can’t lose it!

 

 

 

This nuby Banana NanaNubs gum massager is another adorable way to get your baby mouthing and ready for tooth-brushing. Here is the texture we’re looking for!

 

 


Perhaps my favorite is a good ol’ fashioned hard munchable. The key here, and this is very important, is that this is something the baby CANNOT chew or break off yet. The purpose at this point is only for sensory and oral motor exploration. Celery sticks work great too!

 

 

A few things to remember…

We never want to force, but we do want to encourage. A cry or a cold shoulder today could be a timid attempt to mouth tomorrow. Keep exposing the child to mouthing and be patient. Keep an eye out for little signs that they are becoming interested and try again soon.

If you are a parent reading this, it is always a good idea to reach out to a local Speech Language Pathologist for any concerns you may have with your child’s speech, language, and/or feeding. For more information, you may be interested in these parent handouts for late talkers.

 

Of course, safety is always first.

Please be sure that an adult is always present and watching closely as these options are explored. Use good common sense, folks. But we DO need that baby to learn all the awesome things their little mouth can do when it gets movin’!

 

Happy Mouthing, Speechy Friends!

-Lindsey

Articulation Therapy, Feeding

Frontal Lisps

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We can talk about “hiding our tongue” and keeping “tight teeth” ’til we’re blue in the face… but for some kiddos it seems that pesky frontal lisp just WILL. NOT. GENERALIZE. into a crisp, beautiful /s/. Why? Because the way the tongue of many frontal lispers moves is different and, to be honest, disordered all day every day. Often times, they have an immature swallow pattern. If you watch them eat, you will see that little tongue peep out more than it should.

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We see a huge correlation between frontal lisps and kiddos who have (or had) prolonged usage of sippy cups, pacifiers, and thumb-sucking. Their swallowing pattern got stuck a little too close to the suckle stage and they continue to use a tongue-thrust pattern to swallow. We swallow about 600 times a day. That means every time our kiddos clear their saliva they are reinforcing their frontal lisp.
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Furthermore, you will notice our kiddos have a low at-rest posture for their tongue. I like to joke that my superpower is being able to identify people who used to have a lisp just by watching them speak for a few seconds. Lispers tongues hang low in their mouth – you can check out what I mean by watching THIS video.

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SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

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Before I start articulation therapy with any of my frontal lispers… we do a few things.

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1. Nose Breathing

Ensure that your kiddo is a nose breather. Perform an oral mech and check for enlarged tonsils. Ask about seasonal allergies. Refer accordingly. Mouth-breathing promotes a low, forward resting posture of the tongue.

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2. No more sippy cups

Or thumb sucking. Or pacifiers. Or finger sucking. Cup drinking and straw drinking only, please.

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3. Make sure their tongue tip can elevate to their alveolar ridge.

Some kiddos just haven’t figured this out yet. If you need some help getting tongue-jaw dissociation, take the jaw out of the equation by having them bite down on something that well help prop open their mouth. (My favorite is to stack a few popsicle sticks and tape the together. It’s cheap and easy to replicate at home.) This will stabilize their jaw and allow them to put all their focus on getting that tongue in position. You can always add a tactile cue by putting some sour spray or ice cream on their alveolar ridge. I find kiddos don’t need these cues for very long once they figure out where their tongue should be. We need to be able to elevate our tongue tip to swallow properly, to produce appropriate alveolar phonemes, and even to get a good clear /s/.

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4. Tongue checks.

Have the kiddo engage in a silent activity- be it iPad time, coloring, building blocks, or anything in between. Periodically do a “tongue check” to see that they are keeping their tongue tip elevated to their alveolar ridge. We are trying to change the resting posture of their tongue here. For a tongue check freebie, click here.

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5. Feeding therapy.

If you watch a frontal lisper eat, you will likely see that tongue sneak out during or after their swallow on most food consistencies (liquid, puree, crunchy, etc). They will tell you they are just licking their lips- nope. Target a mature swallow in feeding therapy- and consider referring out if you are not trained in feeding. Again, we swallow 600 times each day!

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6. Look beyond the /s/

Watch their tongue on all alveolar sounds. There is an awfully good chance that if they are lisping on /s,z/ sh, ch, j… that /t,d,n.l/ aren’t correct either. Watch close and remember to follow a developmental pattern when targeting phonemes.

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7. Consider an appliance.

If you are signed up for our newsletter then you have already heard about these awesome appliances. Think of it as a tiny speech therapist in their mouth 24/7. The idea is that they receive speech and feeding therapy to learn how to place their tongue at the alveolar ridge for their swallow and for all alveolar sounds. This little bead serves as a warning that their tongue is going too far forward.

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And there ya go!
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Just some food for thought, friends. There may be so much more going on than just that pesky /s/ sound. We want to be sure to treat the whole child and hopefully this post will shine some light on your students. Once  you’ve addressed these concerns, you’ll be ready to kick some articulation booty and get them cookin’ with some drill work and generalization activities. Have fun, speechy friends! Conquer the frontal lisp!

-Lindsey

(puppy photo credit: Marion Michele via unsplash.com)