Henry has learned to drink through a straw! I know this may seem like an odd thing to celebrate… but this is HUGE! We have been working on the muscle coordination to drink through a straw for 2 years!
Stop and think for a moment what it takes to drink through a straw…
- the muscle action needed to control the lips to close your mouth around the straw tight enough to prevent air from coming in,
- the sucking action to get liquid to move up the straw,
- the control to suck liquid into your mouth but not choke on it,
- the coordination to stop sucking, swallow the liquid in your mouth and then take a breath,
- all the while not loosing hold of the straw while not actively sucking through it!
- Plus the recognition that different liquids will require different muscle effort… like the difference between water, milk and a smoothie.
Like I said, we’ve been working on this for a long time… and then suddenly… he got it!
He has been able to blow bubbles through a straw for some time… that was easier. Over the past months he has been getting closer… we could see the milk moving up into the straw, but never to the point of being able to swallow. And the odd time it would get into his mouth, he was unprepared and would choke. But luckily… he would always try again another day.
And then… eureka! Chocolate milk (what kid doesn’t like chocolate milk!) was the trick. He just did it. No fanfare, no particular encouragement… Shawn just noticed that he was drinking. He commented on it and Henry got so excited. I’m not sure even realized he was doing it at first :).
Connecter Krazy Straws
I think a big factor in his success was the Connecter Krazy Straws I purchased from the Mealtime Notions website. They are colourful, fun straw sets that can be connected to make as long as straw as you want. But the basic pieces are very small… so you can start with a 2 or 3 inch straw and make it longer as your ability increases… the longer the straw – the more muscle strength and control needed. As you can see in the above photos… we’ve had some pretty long ones around here!
So… why is drinking through a straw such a breakthrough????
Well… in and of itself, it’s a big milestone and a huge confidence booster. But more importantly, it is pushing the limits of Henry’s swallow. When he drinks from a cup, he takes extremely small sips – 1/4 tsp or less. There is almost nothing in his mouth to swallow, and it can trickle down his throat. There was no way to tell whether his ability to swallow was actually improving.
But with a straw, he is now getting larger quantities in his mouth resulting in larger swallows… and he’s doing it! No gagging… no choking… no tears. Just strong, confident swallows! This is why it is such a breakthrough!
Is he drinking a cup of chocolate milk… no. But he is drinking a tablespoon… maybe two. For us – this is amazing! This is the most he has ever swallowed in his life!!!!!!!!
Amina, our Occupational Therapist, was so impressed she was almost giddy! I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so excited. She was so impressed by how calm and focused he was that she even went so far as to say that he may not need another feeding study. She watched him swallow for about 2 minutes and was just about bouncing in her seat. She said that by watching his neck, she can see the power in his swallow; how there doesn’t appear to be any “trickle” (when liquid is left over after the swallow and trickles down the throat uncontrolled), and there was no sign of distress. To have Amina – the long time proponent of feeding studies – say she thinks he may not need another one… WOW!
We still have a ways to go… but this is one HUGE step in the right direction!