Using TalkTools to overcome some effects of Down Syndrome
Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim
Down Syndrome is a condition that some children are born with. Their genetic makeup is different from usual, and this results in a range of difficulties, including particular facial features and very fine hair, and short height.
Down Syndrome often causes other medical conditions such as heart problems and hearing loss, and very poor muscle tone all over the body, especially in the mouth area. Because of these difficulties, children with Down Syndrome will almost always have a communication difficulty that will persist throughout their lives.
It is often possible to see and identify Down Syndrome just by noticing their facial features, like the little girl's features in the photo here and below at the end of this article.
Image Credit: (Little girl with Down Syndrome) Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock.com
Help with eating and talking for Down Syndrome children: TalkTools
So what can be done to help Down Syndrome sufferers? One of the core areas they struggle with is eating and talking, and over the years, I have worked with many Down Syndrome children to overcome these difficulties. One in particular, Humera, achieved fantastic results when I implemented the use of TalkTools – a set of child-friendly “tools” to help develop the muscles used for eating and talking together with my other therapy techniques.
TalkTools is a set of tools designed to help develop strength and coordination in their mouths, tongues and jaws if there is any physical weakness in this area. I like that it is especially focused on developing muscle tone and muscle coordination in the mouth, and that I can use the tools for an individual of any age, from babyhood through to old age and all in between!
Therapists undergo a series of training before they officially use TalkTools. With consistent use of such tools, I have personally seen great results in a range of conditions where eating and speech is affected, especially when TalkTools therapy starts early in life.
Image Credit: (Bag of TalkTools Equipment) TalkTools
It is exciting to see that when Down Syndrome babies start consistent TalkTools therapy from birth, it makes an amazing difference to the shape of their mouths. The improvement to their muscle tone in their tongues helps to make the arch inside the mouth more rounded, and their feeding is improved, along with their speech becoming easier and clearer.
Image Credit: (Little boy in TalkTools therapy) - TalkTools
Using TalkTools to help Humera: a case study
Humera, 5 years old, small and lively, wriggled impatiently on her chair, with her mother insisting that she complete the exercises I was getting her to do.
Suddenly, her eyes sparkled with delight when she held the TalkTool piece, steadily wedged in her mouth until I finished counting to her target of 15. She got her reward sticker proudly, then went through some of the words that had the sounds she was practising.
Humera’s Mum is a strongly motivated lady, and determined to have Humera functioning at the same level as her two other children, not lowering her expectations for her little Down Syndrome daughter.
Fortunately, with this support from her Mother, and her Mother’s vigilant encouragement to the school staff, Humera was able to keep up with her peers in Infant School.
However, there came the time when Humera’s little sister had almost caught up with her in her talking and learning things.
Her Mother then needed to accept that Humera needed to be pushed to do the best she could according to her own ability.
(And indeed, I truly believe it is best for all children not just to be competitive with others but to make the highest possible standards for themselves, and in alignment with their strengths, interests and abilities.)
It was during this time that Humera's family and I were delighted to notice that she made good progress through TalkTools therapy, showed by her clearer speech and confidence in communicating with others.
Also, because the muscle tone in her lips and mouth improved through the TalkTool therapy, she was even able to chew things like carrot and apple sticks instead of only eating mushed up foods. This is often difficult for Down Syndrome children to do.
If you are interested in this topic of treating these Down Syndrome issues through the use of TalkTools, I recommend watching this video (approx. 3 mins) showing the 'before and after' of a child with Down Syndrome, after using TalkTools consistently. An example of the development can be seen in the photo here too:
Image Credit: (Little girl Down Syndrome) TalkTools Blog
There are also increasing resources available here in UAE – if you are seeking support or more information, I recommend connecting with the Down Syndrome Association in Dubai, who are very well-placed to help support individuals and families with this condition.
Do you have a child with Down Syndrome or is this new to you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!