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Did you guys know that this is a thing?

28 Apr

I have not been doing the “AAC” thing long, and I don’t deal with tech-AAC frequently. I make a lot of communication books, gesture dictionaries, and just general working with families on implementing strategies to increase communicative attempts in the natural environment. I have recommended an actual communication device only 3 times so the funding piece of things tends to be a bit over my head. Most companies have someone that will work with you on getting devices to trial, completing the appropriate paperwork, and procuring the device and I worship the ground said person walks on.

I recently recommended a device for a client, contacted the company to find out about funding and was told that they don’t do it. AACK. WHAT? Mind blown. I just assumed that every speech generating device for every client would be funded in some capacity, one way or another (I also live in magical fairy AAC land, did I not mention that?)  But the device doesn’t qualify as “durable medical equipment” so the company doesn’t bill insurance.

So now what? The company told me to contact a durable medical equipment company in my area and have them “give them a call.” ABOUT WHAT? GIVE YOU A CALL? I swear some days I feel like I’m losing my mind with these hoops.

Luckily I have my very own AT guru (you may all express your jealousy) who explained that the client’s primary insurance company likely has a DME company they work with for AAC. So the trick is to contact that specific DME company, and work with THEM on funding the device. It’s just more red tape than usual but seriously who knew? In case you didn’t know – now you do!

Learn something new every day I suppose.

(On the AAC-upside, I’m working with a client right now who is actually having success and demonstrating progress with the Tobii I-15 eye-gaze system and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve only ever seen typical adults use eye-gaze systems so it’s a beautiful thing to watch it happen before your very eyes with someone who has disabilities.)

NP: Dime Porque (One of my client’s parents was listening to this during a home visit today and I was like, “This is quite catchy even though I do not understand.)

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Disconnect de comunicacion

3 Mar

Currently in my caseload, I am working with approximately 13 Spanish-speaking families. Communication at times can be very tricky – not between the child and I, but rather between parents and me! I have enough Spanish to interact with a toddler, and I can generally express myself to parents, but when they ask me a question or tell me a story – not a chance. My receptive Spanish skills are pretty limited (in classes when a Spanish professor asked me a question I was always a deer in the headlights.) Oftentimes I’m working with a child in a daycare, so I’ve never even met the parents, or spoken to them on the phone. In this case I leave a carryover note in Spanish, but I’m constantly using wordrerefence.com (they need an app) to look up phrases and words.

I don’t love the disconnect, and I never know what the parents have questions about or concerns until their service coordinator comes to me after months of therapy and says, “Oh Mom thinks they aren’t making progress” or “Dad is worried about XYZ” and then I have to do this crazy tango between the coordinator and the parents. Plus I have no idea about what suggestions or techniques are being carried over.

I do get an interpreter once a month, when I specifically request one, but that’s pretty useless when I’m in a daycare since I don’t need an interpreter to play. We have a receptionist at work who speaks Spanish, so I can potentially use her to call families though scheduling this with the receptionist and the working parents and my schedule isn’t necessarily going smoothly.  For one child I’m developing a communication notebook to stay in the daycare cubby so Mom can ask questions and let me know her concerns, or tell me what is working at home and what isn’t. But I have no idea if Mom will actually use it or if I’m just going to be writing note after note with no sign of life on the other side.

I’m wondering what other strategies clinicians are using for parents interaction. I’m sure this happens in the schools frequently. How do you find out what is going on at home? Have you learned any tricks for communicating when the parents aren’t sitting inches away from you every week?

Ayudeme!

OH and does anyone happen to know student-friendly Spanish musical artists? I have a client who is highly motivated by Latino tunes but I don’t wanna download the Latino equivalent of Lil Wayne by accident.

The Special Mother and Ginny

1 Mar

Erma Bombeck is absolutely one of my most favorite authors. I’m not a mom so it doesn’t make a whole ton of sense that I’m obsessed with her. But her writing is funny and honest, and one day I’ll probably reproduce so she’ll come in handy.

I was reading her book Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession and she touched on the subject of mothers of children with special needs. I’ve read a lot of her books and I haven’t seen this topic before so I was surprised. The first of these stories was: The Special Mother.

The Special Mother

I think this was beautifully written and touching. But when put in the perspective of the second story, I came to love Erma even more. It’s a little darker, but also just as beautifully written and touching as the first. The chapter is entitled, Ginny. You’re able to read it here as a GoogleBook (if you can’t find it, it is Chapter 17 – you should be able to just search it.)

Sometimes at work we have to have the conversation – while we think that as therapists we’re fun, and we play, and the children are happy (sometimes) –  it isn’t necessarily “fun” for families to come to us. If a family is coming to us, there may be something “wrong.” The story of Ginny reminded me that our families love their children and want the best, but also life (and therapy) can be hard. A reminder that those of us who work predominantly with families need sometimes.

I think Ginny also serves as a nice reminder (copywrite 1983) that because of Early Intervention, families don’t necessarily have to feel as though their children will never accomplish things. We’ve come a long way, and we’ve still got a long way to go.

NP: Santigold – Riots gone

Clinical self-discovery. It’s okay!

21 Jan

Hey 2014, great to see ya!

It’s been two (TWO!) years since I started my internships and I’ve been thinking quite a bit on the narrowing of my clinical interests.

When I started my internships, I had no idea what I liked and didn’t like. I mean, I THOUGHT I knew (but we all know that’s silly…you have no clue until you get experience under that very cute belt you’re wearing.) I THOUGHT I wanted adult and hospitals. I THOUGHT I hated AAC (now we have a love-hate relationship.) I THOUGHT I wanted middle school students with diagnoses of ED/BD.

Hahaha. Thoughts.

I knew after my first internship that I loved working with the little children – you know, the weensy ones with the munchkin voices. I knew after my second internship that I did not want to focus on ED/BD. I knew after my third internship that hospitals are not my scene. Even after that, we still have quite an elaborate scope of practice to choose from.

So I got my first job and started my CF with a great, big, wide open caseload. Early intervention, bilingual early intervention, adult dysphagia, adult AAC and cognitive communicative therapy, peds feeding. Behavior, family coaching, communication strategies, group homes, ASL. Lions, tigers, and bears, OH MY!

When I started I was all, “Ohmygod I loooove it allllllll.” Now, a year and a half in, I’m seeing that I have clientele that I get excited about and things I look forward to and enjoy learning about. In turn, there are clinical things I don’t get super thrilled to death about. (Don’t get me wrong. I love all of my patients, but as far as clinical interests go there are things that I just professionally am more intrigued by.) (Was that a fragmented sentence?)(Sorry.) Since I would like to pursue the Ph.D. at some point, figuring out those clinical interests is a really important thing! I can’t stroll into a Ph.D. program and say, “Hey ya’ll – I like everything!” I need to find out what I love so that I won’t mind studying it for the rest of the foreseeable future.

So what do I enjoy? I love working with my Latino babies and families for language therapy. I love working with adults with developmental disabilities. I love adult dysphagia. I just wanna do those things all day.  Is there some communicative disorder where all three happen at once? Oh and I weirdly enjoy evaluations. Can’t really explain that one.

What do I sorta enjoy-ish? AAC. But not high-tech. I enjoy helping families use no-tech, low-tech strategies for targeting critical communication acts. (High-tech AAC makes me want to crawl in a hole. My brain rejects it. And the process for obtaining any device is the worst thing that ever happened. And it is just getting harder. And it is terrible. Run away!)

What am I unsure about? Peds feeding. It makes me so nervous. I don’t have a lot of practical experience and my book-knowledge is useless because it’s book-knowledge. Observation is an option, but frankly every child is so different there isn’t a ton I can take away from watching someone else do it. I’m learning as I go. Progress is slow (for me, not the kids.)

What am I pretty certain I don’t find particularly intriguing? High tech AAC! Adult acquired communicative-cognitive deficits pooooooooost-onset. School aged ANYTHING.

Part of me feels bad, about not loving it all. I have to remember that we ALL have clinical interests. That’s how we grow and develop specified skill sets. I can’t, mentally, love it all and I can’t know it all. I do truly enjoy interacting with and getting to know all of my clients. However, when faced with a puzzle, some situations get me all excited and riled up and I want to learn more. And I’m finding out what those exciting things are! Woo woo! Self-discovery!

And for your viewing pleasure, here is a picture of Simon snuggling with his own tail:

He is sooooo cute

He is sooooo cute

What’s in my bag?

28 May

I’m sorry but I just have to say that writing about “my bag” makes me think of Austin Powers. (Warning: that link is NSFW).

Now that we’ve got that out of the way: my therapy bag. What is in it? How do I decide? As many of you know, I’m doing some home health for kids 0-3 (mostly in the two-three range). My car and home are filled with toys, but I abhor taking the same toys into homes every week – I get bored, the kids are bored, the parents are bored. It’s like “Yeah, we know, you knock the blocks down and say, ‘UH OH’ – message and vocabulary received.” I like to keep things fresh and exciting. However, I also have to be realistic regarding my time and energy, and the children’s…everything.

When I’m considering what toys are going into my bag, I have to think about my kids. Some kids are age-level in terms of play. They have strong fine motor skills, strong attention, strong cognition: everything is age appropriate with the exception of their language. The toys I take into these houses are a little more complex and require more imagination: baby dolls with food and cups and plates, Little People paraphernalia, high-level puzzles, high level books.

On the other hand, I have some kiddos who do not yet shake musical toys or bang two objects together. Some of my kids have rather limited attention. Some need a lot of sensory breaks. The toys I take into these houses are more cause-and-effect, texture-based,  noisy, etc.

As a result of all of these factors, I keep some good ol’ stand-bys in the trunk of my car. My employer has a few cabinets of “Community Materials” so those, combined with my own toys, give me enough material to change it up once a week. That doesn’t mean that kids don’t frequently play with the same toys, it just means that something new or something they haven’t seen in awhile gets thrown in the mix pretty regularly.

When I pack my bag to go into a house I try to ensure I have: one book, one fine motor oriented toy, one sensory-something, something with pieces for receptive language,   something for turn-taking and social games, and my phone so I have some language-apps as back up.  Some therapists may think this is a lot but frankly, my sessions are one hour long with two year olds. Five or six toys doesn’t seem like that much to me.

Toys from my personal collection that I have a lot of success with? I share them with you now:

BOOKS!

I like books that have manipulative features for the EI population.

I like books that have manipulative features for the EI population.

 

Puzzles!

Think of the different skill sets required to complete each of these puzzles. Something as simple as taking a puzzle to a kid's house takes a lot more thought than you would ever think.

Think of the different skill sets required to complete each of these puzzles. Something as simple as taking a puzzle to a kid’s house takes a lot more thought than you would ever think.

Sensory!

Bean Box! I like these but holy smokes get ready for a mess.

Bean Box! I like these but holy smokes get ready for a mess.

 

This stuff is called "Gazz it" - it's 99 cents at Walgreens and it's a weird alternative if you're sick of play-doh

This stuff is called “Gazz it” – it’s 99 cents at Walgreens and it’s a weird alternative if you’re sick of play-doh

 

Fine motor!

Kids love to bang on things.

Kids love to bang on things.

Shape sorter ball is always a hit. Wooden stacker is a personal fave. And that ball thing is just something different.

Shape sorter ball is always a hit. Wooden stacker is a personal fave. And that other ball thing is just something different.

Social fun times

I just want to bang on my drum all day. And shake shake shake. And pat. And tap. And clap. And imitate motor movement. And sing songs using baby signs. Yay!

I just want to bang on my drum all day.
And shake shake shake. And pat. And tap. And clap. And imitate motor movement. And sing songs using baby signs. Yay!

Cause-and-effect

These poppers are always fun. For early players you can do a simple "POP" and for more advanced kids you can do some receptive "Who is in the trash can? Push the boat. Where'd he go?" games

These poppers are always fun. For early players you can do a simple “POP” and for more advanced kids you can do some receptive “Who is in the trash can? Push the boat. Where’d he go?” prompts.

 

These are just some of my favorites right now, DEFINITELY not a be-all-end-all list. And as an FYI – I get nearly all of my toys at Goodwill. Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune to get some nice materials. And if you don’t have a lot that is okay, my supervisor always says you should be more interesting than the toy. If you can get a kid engaged and playing with YOU then you are all good in the hood.

NP: Love Somebody – Maroon 5

I don’t even know where to start.

20 Feb

It has been a really, really long time. SO LONG. MONTHS. I wish I had a valid excuse but basically it is cold and I’m sleepy and I’m busy and I don’t wanna go to the library to blog. I’ve had so many things to share, and I can’t even begin to pick a topic. I think the last thing I blogged about was CFs and swallowing therapy and how I suck at dealing with behaviors. I still suck at dealing with behaviors. I’m working on it OKAY?!

But I’ve been doing so many new things and meeting so many people and I learn something new every day. I think my most challenging area since my last blog has been AAC! Oh yeah my friends. Can I just tell you – in grad school and undergrad I was all, “UGGGGH AAC.” Now I eat-sleep-breathe AAC. And I enjoy it! It still scares me and confuses me and and overwhelms me and I’m still learning an INCREDIBLE amount. It seems so daunting! AAC is changing every day and that stresses me out – how am I supposed to stay on top of it? How can I make sure my clients have the best system for them when I might discharge them and find out about a new system the next day? I DON’T LIKE THAT.

So currently, my caseload is right around 30 plus evals. Which feels kinda crazy-pants some weeks, so I feel really bad for people in schools and hospitals who have more than that. Don’t forget, my friends: ASHA says no more than 40 but I know you all are doing way more than 40. Average is 50ish. Max is 110ish. SCARY.

Anyway, so about half my caseload is adults. I see two adults with acquired disabilities, and the rest have developmental disabilities. I’m not seeing anyone for swallowing currently, and I see one adult for cognitive-communicative tx, and the REST are AAC. So I’m seeing like 12 adults for AAC. It is a LOT of work. My adult clients require way more planning than my kiddos. The kids are challenging, but in a very different way. I’m doing some AAC with a couple of my kiddos but it isn’t the ONLY thing we’re working on. Basically my desk looks like the birthplace of AAC on most days:

DESK EXPLOSION

DESK EXPLOSION

So what am I doing with these clients? Some I’m working on developing low-tech communication books and wallets. So far I’ve successfully created two functional and effective communication books for clients who use ASL, but have difficulty communicating with hearing individuals (specifically group home staff and workshop employees.) I’m learning a lot about interacting with the Deaf community, and I’m taking a sign language course right now. It’s…interesting. We’ll get there one day once I catch up on this blogging business.

A couple of clients I’m helping to obtain high-tech speech generating devices for. One client my goal is a Dynavox Maestro, the other a NovaChat7. I’m also trialing a Springboard Lite with a client.

Some clients I’m going more mid-tech with – Go Talk 20, 7 Level Communicator, Three Message Platform Communicator etc.

Some devices I’ve trialed include: Dynavox Xpress, Dynavox V+, Dynavox DV4, NovaChat7, Springboard Lite, Alt Chat, Tobii C12, ProxTalker, Go Talk 4, Go Talk 20, 7 Level Communicator, One Message Communicator, Three Message Platform, Four Message Communicator. The DV4 isn’t made anymore, but we have one in a cabinet and I like using it during evaluations because it has a large screen and “exploratory” pages that assist in evaluating category skills, access skills, identification skills etc. Someone today referred to it as a dinosaur, but I think this ol’ dinosaur still has a place.

Also of course, I’ve been working with the iPad and apps. I don’t LOVE the iPad the way everyone else does. Don’t get me wrong: it is awesome and there’s so many things that can be done with it in therapy and in terms of using it for a communication device. My main beef with it is that damn 60 minutes piece that focused on its use with people with autism. I think just about every person I see for AAC has asked if they can get an iPad. I’m like:

WELL, you certainly CAN but I can’t promise that insurance will pay for it or any apps on it (probably not). And I also can’t promise that using it will be successful or that it will be appropriate for the person using it. The iPad IS NOT a be all end all.

I’ve also been downloading free AAC apps for my Android phone and there are SO MANY. I think I want to start reviewing them and sharing what I think here on my blog. So get excited for that. I think it is a great idea especially for home-health therapists to be able to just pull out their phone and try an AAC app with a client.

You may be wondering how I get my hands on all this good stuff.  First of all, my workplace has an AWESOME Resource Center that has SO MANY AAC and AT products. It’s great. I just be-bop down there about a million times a week and borrow devices. Also, I utilize DATI a LOT.  In fact I’m on their wait list right now to borrow a Dynavox Maestro. DATI is a life-saver! They’re so incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. LOVE. And of course, if I need to I can always contact companies directly and ask them if they know of a device I can borrow in the area (I tweeted at Saltillo and they were so helpful in my hunt for a NovaChat. Thanks Cara at Saltillo!) I think I’m pretty in what is available to me.

I think one of the more frustrating things about AAC is actually GETTING a device. The process is so long. I wrote up an explanation for families for the steps it will take to get a device. I found that families were coming to the evaluation and expecting that their loved one would have a device by the next time I saw them. And while I don’t want to discourage anyone from coming to therapy to get a device, I also don’t want them to be surprised if it takes a long long lonnnnng time.

My letter to families and caregivers

My letter to families and caregivers

I think overall, the learning curve for AAC is a little intense, but I’m getting there. I tell people that I’m learning just like they are and that it is definitely a trial-and-error process. If you have any questions, ideas, suggestions, stories – WHATEVER – about AAC, please share!

PS – I’m obsessed with the NovaChat7. OBSESSED.

addendum: my biggest struggle

18 Oct

I wrote post a few weeks ago about my difficulties with children who displayed elopement behaviors in my speech therapy sessions.

A lot of therapists shared a lot of great ideas with me! At that time I had seen a child I was having a good deal of trouble with about four times. I’ve seen him three times since then and I wanted to give a little update.

My supervisor came to observe me at that fourth session (which went horribly), and she came to observe me today, and she said there was a NOTABLE difference. So what happened?

First, I rearranged the setup to reduce the chance of him escaping. (Basically I cornered him.) Secondly, I offered him choices so I could better follow his lead (i.e. – “Do you want crayons or cars?”) Thirdly, I worked really hard at allowing his siblings to be a part of the play rather than trying to prevent them from wanting novel toys. This also allowed me to see what happened when my client had to take turns or share (not pretty.) Not going to lie, the first few sessions after that post were a LIIIIIITTLE wild. A lot of tantrums, a little aggression, and more elopement. But I had to create routine.

When I saw an increase in behaviors I got a chance to do some functional behavior assessment. Turn taking and sharing lead to the aggressive behaviors (pushing, hitting) and tantrums. I saw the elopement during transition between toys and tasks, and when he was told no, or that he had to wait (especially in regards to turning on the TV.)

So, to decrease the aggression and tantrums, I really encouraged mom to make turn taking and sharing a major part of play and home routine. If he only has to share once a week of course he’s going to be upset. It needed to be established that this was an expected behavior.

In terms of elopement I had to improve my transitioning. I realized what I was doing was letting him play with a toy, then saying “ALL DONE” and putting it away. That means all of the sudden his object of desire has been removed and he’s got nothing new to entertain him – OF COURSE he’s gonna run! So now I preface the transition “In a minute new toy. Soon it’s time to clean up.” Etc and I bring out the new toy before I take away the old one.

Also I’m increasing my affect, I’m working REALLY hard at taking center stage, and trying to make kids WANT to pay attention to me. It feels really stupid sometimes but that’s what these kids need! You need to be better than the toy they have.

Another factor in this kiddo’s behavior SEEMS to be sensory related. I noticed when he was eloping he was crashing, jumping, throwing himself around – more so than your average 2 year old boy. He’s a rough player. I spoke to one of our OTs and she gave me the run down on sensory processing and integration and he seemed to fit the profile. So the last few sessions I’ve been LETTING him take some sensory breaks, and I’ve been providing some sensory input. Deep pressure, squishes, squeezes etc. At first he did NOT like it and resisted, but today he allowed it for a few minutes and seemed to be seeking continuation of the deep pressure.

What it is really coming down to following the child’s lead and PLAYING. Watch behaviors and do your ABCs (antecedent, behavior, consequence.) Make changes as needed. Really look at what you’re doing and analyze how the kid is reacting to your actions. There is a reason for behaviors, you can figure it out!

NP: Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait

PS – when it comes to the TV, sometimes I let him turn it on and I’ll kind of narrate what he sees for a minute. Then I transition him back to play. If he continuously tries to turn it on I have to say “I’m sorry, not TV time” and prevent him from turning it on. Sometimes he’s okay with that and sometimes he does NOT like that and I see some elopement or tantrums, but I just say “I’m so sorry that you’re angry – let’s do XYZ.” He recovers either way. I play it by ear and how easy he is to redirect that day. The TV is a hard one when you’re in people’s homes, but it is OKAY to ask to turn it off or lower the volume.

PPS – I did all of the above in SPANISH. Booyeah.

The CF

15 Oct

Okay I was GOING to blog about AAC assessment and device trialing but I am doing my first days of device trialing this week and I figure I should wait until that actually happens to have an opinion on it. (Don’t worry though – I already have opinions.)

The Clinical Fellowship. The ol’ CF. Ye olde CFY. (It isn’t a year anymore I HATE when people call it the CFY now. IT ISN’T A CFY STOP THAT STOP IT RIGHT NOW.) (STOP IT.)

What’s the deal with the CF? According to ASHA:

The Clinical Fellowship (CF) is a transition between being a student and being an independent provider of clinical services that involves a mentored professional experience after the completion of academic course work and clinical practicum.

Purpose of the Clinical Fellowship

  • Integration and application of the theoretical knowledge from academic training
  • Evaluation of strengths and identification of limitations
  • Development and refinement of clinical skills consistent with the Scope of Practice
  • Advancement from constant supervision to independent practitioner

It is 36 weeks of full-time clinical practice. You get paid don’t panic. It isn’t a continuation of an internship. You’re expected to do real work and you’re the SLP. You just don’t have your CCCs yet because probably you’re a screw up. Don’t worry – we all are. As my mom says, “YOUR PROFESSION HAS A CF FOR A REASON.” (And I’m all, “Yeaaah Mom but like, I like being perfect at everythiiiiiing.”)

What do you have to DO for a CF? Here, read this:

Clinical Fellowship Requirements

  • 36 weeks of full-time (35 hours per week) experience (or the equivalent part-time experience), totaling a minimum of 1260 hours. Part-time work can be completed, as long as the CF works more than 5 hours per week. Working more than 35 hours per week will not shorten the minimum requirement of 36 weeks.
  • Mentoring by an individual holding ASHA certification in speech-language pathology. It is the responsibility of the Clinical Fellow to verify certification of the mentoring SLP, and can do so by contacting the ASHA Action Center to verify at 1-800-498-2071.
  • A score of “3” or better on the core skills in the final segment of the experience, as rated by SLPCF Mentor using the SLP Clinical Fellowship Skills Inventory form.
  • 80% of time must be spent in direct clinical contact (assessment/diagnosis/evaluation, screening, treatment, report writing, family/client consultation, and/or counseling) related to the management of disordered that fit within the ASHA Speech and Language Pathology Scope of Practice.
  • Submission of an approvable CF Report and Rating Form.

I actually filled out my own rating scale the other day of how I think I’m doing. I mostly gave myself 3s and 4s. November 15th is the last day of Segment 1 for me and then my supervisor and I will compare and discuss.

Something you’ll also note on the CF Rating Form is:

A full-time SLPCF consists of a minimum of 35 hours worked per week and equals 1,260 hours throughout the 36-week SLPCF. The SLPCF must consist of at least 36 mentoring activities, including 18 hours of on-site direct client contact observations and 18 other monitoring activities.

Ew.

That equals 6 hours of direct supervision and 6 hours of “mentoring” per segment. THAT’S A LOT OF BONDING TIME. Sheesh ASHA, you’re killin’ me.

Overall I think the CF is going pretty well – I love my supervisors and I have wonderful support at my facility. I think for a CF it is SO important to have support – you NEED other SLPs, you SHOULD HAVE an onsite supervisor who you see regularly. A few jobs I interviewed for would have supervisors for me in other buildings, or I’d be doing only home health and wouldn’t really have a home base. It would have been a mistake for me to take one of those positions. I have a sounding board, I have people to observe, people to bounce ideas off, people to share/commiserate with.  I do group therapy twice a week where I get to see PTs, OTs, and Early Childhood Educators in action. My supervisor and I meet every Friday. There are SIX other SLPs for me to talk to and they’re such amazing resources. If you’re considering somewhere for your CF – please consider the support system your facility will have in place for you, it’s incredibly important.

Shoot me questions! I’m happy to help.

NP: Lee Brice – Hard to Love

The Visual Swallow Study

15 Oct

As previously stated, I’ve been doing a LOT of visual swallow studies. Mostly with group home residents who have developmental disabilities.

What am I doing exactly? I don’t have access to FEES or MBS, so I’m basically doing a bedside evaluation. The outcome of which is USUALLY: refer for a FEES or MBS, refer for skilled speech language services to train in safe swallow strategies, diet modification, meal time modification, or no changes!

So here’s how it goes:

1. I generally start with an oral motor examination. This tends to be slightly difficult because this population of older adults (usually 50-60ish) with developmental disabilities didn’t HAVE access to early intervention – and in some cases any intervention at all. So the cognitive skills, the ability to follow simple one step directions with verbal, visual, and tactile cues: not really present. Sometimes they are able to imitate me and in some cases they are able to follow directions (but not always – I don’t count on it.) So at the least I try to get in and check out dentition and structure (size of tongue in relation to oral cavity, lip seal, tone etc.) It’s important to note whether the patient is able to follow directions because this is going to be a major factor in whether I think they’d benefit from skilled speech therapy services focusing on compensatory manuevers.

2. I check out language skills. As with the cognition – a lot of my patients don’t have strong receptive or expressive language. I want to be able to say in my report what their language is like, how do they communicate.

3. I chat with caregivers while the patient is eating. I want to know: Where do they eat their meals? What diet are they on? What kind of supervision do they receive? Have they had previous swallow studies? Previous swallow difficulties? Do they have special tools for eating? (Divided plate, cutlery with handles) Do they avoid giving this person any types of food and why? Is how they’re eating today comparable to their normal habits? What kind of prompts are given to this person and what is their response? Have they seen any signs/symptoms of aspirations/penetration?

Also in the group homes in Delaware the patients are given a “Choking Risk Assessment” – I like to get a copy of that report as well as their most recent nursing assessment. Often times what the nursing assessment says about the person’s diet is different than what the caregivers report and that is important to know.

4. While I’m chatting I’m also checking out the person eating their lunch. I note all foods and drinks trialed and response. Rate, signs/symptoms of asp/penetration, time to initiate swallow, prompts required and response to prompts, peri and inter oral residues, laryngeal excursion. Do they talk while they eat? How is their voice? How is respiration? Rotary chew? Tongue thrust/delayed swallow pattern?

5. Then if I see anything that concerns me, I try out some strategies. If they have the cognition I may try a superglottic swallow, chin tuck, head turn – whatever I think would work best. I might try to encourage small sips, small bites, alternating bites and sips. Here I also check comprehension – do they have a concept of “small” or “slow”? Or are we just saying “Small bites!” over and over to no avail? I’ll try out some different prompting strategies and see how they respond. I may try breaking their meals into smaller portions or bites.

6. I summarize my findings and discuss with caregiver. Generally I provide them with an outline of the National Dysphagia Diet (circling the one I recommend), a list of typical swallow function in older adults,  and I may give them something to try out like a visual pacer they could laminate.

7. I write!

Now, I have about an hour for an actual evaluation and it pretty much takes that entire time. Honestly the most common dysphagia I see with this population is RAPID stuffing of food and gulping of liquids. Very impulsive and highly motivated by food. I have never in my life seen this before so the first time it was a REAL SHOCKER. I try to avoid diet modifications because I think diet has a major effect on quality of life, but I will do it for the safety of the person. Usually with the rapid stuffing I recommended 1:1 supervision, with consistent prompts to slow, wait, stop, chew, etc. I also recommend that meals be presented in portions – just a little at a time! Liquids included! They don’t need their entire meal at once. And often cutting food into small bite sized pieces helps slow them down a little.

I’m really enjoying these evaluations so if you have any questions please feel free to ask! Or give me ideas! I love ideas!

Checking in so you guys don’t think I died

15 Oct

YO.

Okay so listen, I still don’t have a computer (or internet) in my home and sometimes I just don’t want to blog from my tiny QWERTY phon keyboard. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have things to share!

1) A mom said I wasn’t kid friendly. But to be fair we ALL know that I have NO poker face whatsoever. I’ve been told this again and again and I just cannot get my face under control. Anyone who has seen my pictures on Facebook knows that my face does exactly what it wants. And I’m an open book anyway so that really doesn’t help. Talk about your heart on your sleeve – more like my heart is on my face.

2) A mom told me I was really connecting with her kid! See – people have good things to say too.

3) One of my adult patients was really into hair. And hugging. And patting my arms.

4) I’ve been doing so MANY swallow evals and I’d love to tell you about them in another post I’m just giving you a quick and dirty run down so hold your horses!

5) I did an AAC eval and I’m starting AAC device trialing this week – see number four for elaboration.

6) I’m trying to talk @kimabts into being a wug for Halloween.

uh. This is a wug.

7. It’s almost my three month anniversary at my job and as such I’m almost done with segment 1 of my CF! Holy guacamole!

8. I got strep for the first time! Yay early intervention! Also all of the children have rashes. Delightful.

9. I always thought I was really good at singing songs about my life activities but now that I’m in EI I can sing anything! WITH a tune. SOMETIMES in SPANISH.

10. My desk collapsed at work and someone came and put a traffic cone next to it. If they were smart they’d just make me wear a traffic cone around my neck at all times.

Yeah. Cone of Shame. Also I was almost crushed by speech therapy materials.

Also if anyone knows of a “communication board” to use with adults in the hospital setting tweet at @kimabts and let her know. I don’t really know any more details than that so don’t ask me ask her!

Okay now I’ll write about visual swallow studies and AAC. And maybe CFs. We’ll see. I only have an hour on this computer in the library.

NP: You Da One – Rihanna