No surprise here, but Roo has an oral motor delay. He doesn't lateralize his tongue properly to move food where it needs to be in order to chew. His jaw is weak and uncoordinated - no rotary chew pattern here. He exhibits a "palate mash" in which he uses his tongue to smash food against the roof of his mouth rather than actually chewing it. He has a narrowed palate (probably caused by the incessant thumb sucking) that makes it difficult for him to deal with thick liquids and purees (and yogurt, apple sauce, soup, mashed potatoes, etc.) Coupled with a raw, red esophagus, it's no wonder the kid gags all the time. Happily, his diagnosis is once again official, twice monthly speech therapy should help, and our insurance should cover it.
Unhappily, we've been wait-listed by the speech therapist. I guess I should have coached him better to let the food dribble out of his mouth or not to stick out his tongue when prompted. Either that or we should have sent him to speech therapy prep classes to get his chewing scores up for his applications. But no. Too late. Wait listed.
In reality, The List is not based so much on level of need as it is on who signed up first. I'm not sure which way is more fair, but either way, we are not at the top of the list. The scheduling nurse did offer to let me give them a call every month or so just to see if there might be an opening. I'll be sure to send her some flowers for the generosity.
So, I'm checking out those nifty early intervention programs I've heard about. The danger again is that there's a waiting list and in less than 6 months Roo will no longer qualify for early intervention when he turns 3. We're also open to a local speech therapist that is not associated with our hospital. Any recommendations around Chicago/Western Suburbs? We need a facility that offers feeding therapy. It looks like there are lots of speech options, but many don't do feeding.
For now I'm the therapist. I'm reading everything I can find on oral delays, feeding therapies, etc. I've got my Nuk brushes, my chewy tubes in varying colors and hardnesses, and this terrifying vibrating maniacal clown that Roo has deemed, "Helper Boy". Helper Boy gives kisses on his cheeks and then he can bite Helper Boy's hands to wake up his mouth and get him ready to eat. Disturbing on many levels, I realize. I'll bring down the mirror because it's supposed to help him to be able to see where he puts the food. We're practicing biting on the side, using molars, and chewing up and down like various animals. As if we didn't have enough to worry about at meal time, right? I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that this helps.