I’m a pediatric SLP with a clinical question for your experts. I attended the Three-Part Treatment Plan for Oral Placement Therapy (OPT) workshop last year. I have a little guy (3;4) who presents with low tone, has a breathy voice and speaks in short bursts.
I recently introduced the Horn Program, hoping that we could use it to improve his abdominal grading and breath support. However, we are having some problems with compensatory movements, and I’m having trouble remembering from the workshop what we are supposed to do about that!
When I hold up the horn, he leans, opens his mouth wide and reaches for it with his arms. If I can get him to sit back in the chair as I bring the horn to him, he inevitably opens his mouth wide. He also bites the horn for stability, and if I can get him to close his mouth as I present the horn, he grabs my shoulder for support.
I feel we need to back up, but I’m not sure where to go! Would one of the TalkTools® Instructors be able to help me with this? Do these sound like things his OT should work on? Are there some other activities you might recommend as a prerequisite for success with Horn #1?
Thank you in advance for any guidance on this issue.
This is a common problem when starting with a client, especially if he is just beginning an OPT program, has overall low tone and also has jaw instability and difficulty with lip-jaw dissociation. The aforementioned are all good reasons to use the TalkTools Horn Hierarchy. Following are some things to remember about using the Horn Program that may be helpful.
1. Consider your seating – Is he well supported with his head, pelvis, knees and ankles at 90 degrees? Does he have a place to rest his hands, head and feet? These are important to think about initially, remembering that what happens in the body often is seen in the mouth. If you do not have access to good support from a chair, try lying him down on the floor (I like a wedge if possible, but if you are working in a home you may only have access to a pillow). Gravity can help him with stabilizing the body, and if he’s not working against his own lack of support through his core muscles, you may get a better start.
2. It is absolutely OK to provide jaw support when starting out. If you remember, you can also progress forward through Horn #1 and #2, even if you are still needing to give him support. Jaw support can help and is crucial in eliminating a few of the problems you are reporting: Moving forward (you are providing stability at the lowest level of oral function and often need good support to start. Think about getting his body and jaw positioned first with your support and THEN present the horn. Doing both at once often leads to habitual compensatory movements), controlling the opening of the jaw (increase your support as needed until he opens just wide enough – if he still has difficulty, think about where you are in his Jaw Program. If you are just beginning and he has poor jaw control, this may not be something you can completely control just yet, working on a jaw program simultaneously- the TalkTools® Bite Tube Set and/or the TalkTools® Jaw Grading Bite Blocks will help! You may also want to consider supporting him from behind if his chair seems to be supporting him OK at the hips, knees and feet but he has nowhere for his hands or head to stabilize. In this case, you would use your body as the support from behind while wrapping your hand around the head to support the jaw. This can also eliminate some of the leaning forward you may see, especially if he is seeking stability/sensory input.
3. If you continue to struggle, consider backing up and working with Step B of the Bubble Blowing Program to teach him to control airflow; this is where you blow the bubble and catch it on the wand, having him use a voiceless “ha” to teach him to isolate the abdominals. This would take out the focus of lip closure and jaw stability for now, while teaching him to access volitional air with control. I’d also really consider your jaw program, and see if several sessions of jaw input might help you gain a little more control over his oral function.
All great questions and I hope these suggestions help you find a starting point. Of course if it leads to more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us again!