Today I’m sharing a small excerpt from a podcast episode with speech and language pathologist Dr. Joanne Gerenser where we discuss ways we can help children with speech problems. You can check out the full podcast episode for more of our conversation.
Dr. Gerenser came to present in Berks County back in 2000/2001. I was going to take her out to dinner, so I thought I would bring her to my home and have her do a quick 15-minute look at Lucas. The one piece of advice I remember she said was to get rid of the spill-proof sippy cup. That was really key information. I’ve done video blogs on getting rid of bottles and pacifiers and spill-proof sippy cups. There’s a lot of similarities between eating, drinking, sucking problems, and talking problems. This is what Dr. Gerenser had to say about why she recommended this to me and recommends the same to others.
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Dr. Gerenser on Speech Articulation
“We as speech pathologists have taken entire courses on speech development. And we don’t agree all the time, but it’s very scientific literature we have. One of the things we learn is that speech is what’s called an overlaid function. Our tongue and our velum are actually gesticulators as they’re designed to be able to eat. That’s why you see families when they have a baby, go from the bottle or liquids to mushy foods. You don’t just give a two-year-old a piece of steak necessarily. But the progression that we go through when we eat is what helps our articulators.”
The Problem with Sippy Cups
There’s a reason why certain sounds come in later. We lose teeth. So, you want to make sure your S sound is developed before you lose your front teeth. Otherwise, you’re going to end up having a lisp. When kids stay on the bottle too long or the sippy cup, which is in essence just the glorified bottle, they’re not developing the right oral motor behaviors that lead to more functional speech. People are now recommending to get rid of the bottle at age one because you want to make sure that you’re not behind the eight ball when you’re starting to develop speech.
Speech Problems in Toddlers
This is also true with pacifiers. A lot of people don’t think they can get rid of the pacifier because of severe problem behaviors. They basically plug up kids to keep them calm and not screaming, but at the same time they’re plugging up their kid who is becoming more and more speech delayed. Ever since that little piece of advice two decades ago that Dr. Gerenser gave me about spill-proof sippy cups, I became a big proponent of straw drinking, open cup drinking, and moving kids along. And not just for drinking but also for eating.
Eating Habits and Speech Articulation
I remember interviewing this mom once and I was trying to get the bottom of her child’s struggles and I had seen this kid eat crunchy foods. The mom said he’ll eat French Fries and corn chips and other foods like that. The white crunchy diet. I asked if he ate any fruits or vegetables or protein. She said only in the baby food. Her kid was 6 years old and the mom was very financially strapped. He was eating 52 jars a week of baby food.
Nobody’s going to ask, “is your child eating baby food?” She didn’t need people blaming her for not being able to feed her child real food, but there’s so much involved with the oral motor system that I think it is important to know. A child ability to chew and swallow mushy foods, crunchy foods, the E sound with the biting, it is all important. Behavior analysts don’t have all of the research to support this, but speech and language pathologists can help.
Dr. Gerenser on Sharing Information
Dr. Gerenser says, “we get to depend on each other to give us different information. There’s a tremendous amount of scientific evidence behind things like speech development and super segmental aspects of speech, lexical processing. There’s a very, very broad literature on that and it’s very scientific. We have to be able to have conversations so that we can decide what we want to include in our interventions. If we don’t, we just cut it out. I’ve been here now going on 38 years. The behavior analysis that I do today doesn’t look at all like what we did 38 years ago. We’re so much better and so much more advanced. You have to stay on top of things. It requires a dialogue.”[/vc_column_text]
Helping Each Other With Speech Articulation
Dr. Gerenser has such a wide background and such a history with ABA and speech and language pathology. I hope that what she says here resonates with people because she has been leading the way and really trying to bridge this gap and make things better for kids with autism.
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