Wednesday, April 6, 2011

TalkTools Straw Hierarchy Kit

Tongue protrusion and low muscle tone (also known as hypotonia) are common among individuals with Down syndrome. Is it because of an enlarged tongue? Is it because of hypotonia (low muscle tone)? Contrary to the belief that it is because of an enlarged tongue, I have come across some literature that low muscle tone leads to tongue protrusion. I mentioned this in my previous post "On Tongue Protrusion". The article "Tongue Protrusion" by Karen Henderson SLP, explains it and provides suggestions to promote tongue retraction. (The article is available as a .pdf file online. Google Tongue Protrusion Karen Henderson).

Hypotonia affects all the muscles in the body. The tongue is a muscle. We have mouth muscles that allow us to move our mouths, chew, and keep our mouths closed to keep our tongue in. Without hypotonia, our mouths are naturally closed when we're not talking or eating. With hypotonia, it seems that natural tendency is for the jaw to remain open and tongue thrust to occur.

The TalkTools Straw Kit is one of the tools to inhibit tongue thrust. The idea is to improve mouth and tongue tone through a hierarchy of drinking straws that encourage utilization of various targeted mouth/ tongue muscles.

There are 8 straws. Each straw is different in length, diameter, and form and intended to address certain areas of the tongue. The straws also promote lip closure.

I had considered finding similar straws at dollar stores instead of buying this kit. But it would be too troublesome and time-consuming for me. I also wouldn't have the instructions that come along with the kit.

I recently learned that when drinking out of any straw, even one not in the TalkTools straw kit, only about 1/4-inch of the straw should be in the mouth for proper lip closure and straw drinking. With a lot more than that in the mouth, Matthew starts to suckle the straw instead therefore not encouraging the right muscles to improve tone and promote lip closure.

Matthew started with the straw kit right after Christmas. We are about to move on to straw #3.

Keep in mind that there are many other ways to improve muscle tone and awareness. Chewing (chewy food) is one way to make the mouth muscles work and get that tongue moving around. I listed other tips in "On Tongue Protrusion".

Do you use the TalkTools straw kit? What has your experience been with it?

Related post:
On Tongue Protrusion


Anna said...

thank you so much for this post. Our little one was taught "put your tongue away." before she was adopted. A speech therapist heard me tell her this and exclaimed,"but she cant! He tongue is too large." I was like, huh, she keeps it in her mouth 90% of the time with no problem. She does eat incorrectly, using her tongue to smash the food on the roof of her mouth.(Ive been showing and telling her, use your teeth.) and when sucking a straw she uses her tongue instead of lips. I am going to check out the resources and straws!

Sue Lesch said...

Hi Ria, We used this product when Sam was younger (can't remember when exactly). It's hard to say what one thing works when we did so many things but I will say Sam doesn't really have tongue protrusion problems like a lot of the kids do. We also stopped using sippy cups as soon as he could use the straw and when we were concerned about spilling he always used a cup with a straw. I also tried to find the skinniest straws I could. Coffee stirrers are great for that. You have to make a really tight seal with your lips and have to work harder to get anything from a skinnier straw and I think that helped too.

Brandie said...

We have this kit and have not had much luck with it. I think it just isn't a good fit for her because of her dysphagia. You are only supposed to use these straws with thin liquids and that causes her to choke and gag. She doesn't really have a problem with tongue protrusion anyway, so we are going to stick with the bubbles and try the horns.

Jaclyn said...

I have a son who has a speech delay and the neurologist said that he has a big pocket between his teeth and his cheeks, which is why he is not talking. I am looking for way to help strengthen his muscles in his mouth. He makes sounds, but is not producing words. How long did it take for your son to talk using the straw kit?