Parenting as an SLP - Hearing and Speech Agency

Parenting as an SLP

True story: Before we were even discharged from the hospital, I found myself emailing a photo of my newborn daughter undergoing her hearing screening to our Director of Development and Communications so she could post it on the HASA Instagram account. I was dedicated to using my child as an #educationalopportunity.

“This will be great,” I thought. “I have a strong background in child development, so I’ll be able to judge her milestones and progress without needing evaluation,” I thought. “Anything I’ve learned about that she needs help with, I’ll be able to handle,” I thought.

And yet, I found myself questioning my professional judgment of “she’s fine” when the photo-sharing app we used asked if she was imitating speech sounds yet. I knew it was too early for her to have mastered that skill, and yet I stared at her intently, day after day, making all different types of vowel sounds to see what would happen. She stared back, silent. My anxiety rose and rose until, finally, I said “oo” and saw her lips purse in response.

“She’s fine!” I yelled to my husband.

“I know!” he called back.

When we came across an actual problem—her difficulty feeding, particularly with a bottle—I wracked my brain for training on this topic. It seemed like a sensory aversion at first, so I created a plan of gradual introduction to new stimuli and was confident that it would solve the problem. It did, sort of. She finally allowed plastic to be in her mouth without crying. She just didn’t do anything with it but give me a big cheeky grin and let it fall back out!

I wracked my brain for anything I had learned in graduate school about infant feeding disorders. Helpers in our social circle gave suggestions, which we followed to the letter, and came over personally to assist us, which we welcomed as frequently as possible. Still, no luck with getting her to use a bottle. Oh, and why was she still projectile vomiting during some feedings, and breaking her latch all the time? The strategies we implemented to counter infant reflux should have had an effect on that. Hmm…

We called in a lactation consultant, who took a look at our daughter and told us that she had a posterior tongue tie as well as a lip tie. Sometimes, tongue and lip ties don’t impact function, and children are able to work around it. In some cases, though, it prevents infants from achieving appropriate suction for feeding, interferes with their latch, and causes them to swallow air, resulting in frequent spit-up and, yes, the projectile vomiting we’ve been fighting in vain. Our LC helped us to get an appointment with a specialist the next day for a correction (a laser is used to release the connective tissue) and we were on our way to solving this problem.

Tongue and lip tie post-procedure care involves daily stretching of the surgical site (babies do not like this), as well as oral-motor strengthening and mobility exercises (can be fun if she’s in a good mood). Diving into my infant’s mouth to help with her recovery has been quite the educational experience. I’ve become reacquainted with miniature-sized oral structures, including those gag-inducing faucial pillars, and find myself voraciously reading articles on feeding and swallowing, an area of the SLP scope of practice that I previously avoided like the plague. Now, after I explain to her daycare provider that there’s an oral-motor functioning component to my daughter’s bottle refusal and it’s not entirely behavioral, I find that I have unintentionally gone into way too much detail and am grinning widely about how cool mouth muscles are. (They are SUPER cool.)

Despite the fact that I spent years studying things the mouth and brain do together, I’ve found that my thought processes as a parent consistently override those I have as an SLP. Working with people in my own field and related areas has been helpful to my understanding in both roles, and has given me a fresh perspective on the ways I can help support the families I interact with professionally.

Here’s hoping for more learning experiences along the way! (But not too many.)

Hearing and Speech AgencyHarry and Jeanette Weinberg Building 5900 Metro Drive Baltimore, MD 21215 410.318.6780