When we got the news almost two weeks ago that she would definitely need airway reconstruction surgery to get her trach out, and that surgery would increase her risk of aspiration, I made a determination to really start working hard on her oral motor skills. I figured the more we strengthen these skills, the more accustomed she will be to "eating" by the time she needed this surgery. The better she learns how to handle food being in her mouth and organizing it so she can swallow now, the less her risk of aspiration will be after the surgery.
I spoke with Marissa's speech therapist about this and she said that since Marissa already likes the taste of food, we now need to work on the biting and chewing aspect of eating. Marissa will only take tastes of things and gags if things get too far back in her mouth. Her ST recommended we get things like licorice, veggie sticks dipped in ranch, biter biscuits, beef jerky sticks for her to learn how to chew. Things that she can get the taste of that are long enough to reach her back teeth and hard enough that she can bite into and won't necessarily break off in her mouth. So, I went shopping and we have been trying these things a little bit this week.
Marissa's ST session was this morning and she did so great! She sat for 20 minutes and chewed on Twizzlers (her fave!), breadsticks, biter biscuits, and carrots and celery. She rarely complained and was excited to "take turns" with Elmo. She only gagged once! Her ST said she is very pleased that she did so well. I mentioned that I think we backed off the oral stuff long enough that Marissa has forgotten how scary it is to aspirate. Before, she would hardly let anything in her mouth because she associated that with choking and not being able to breathe. We also have allowed her to learn how to enjoy the taste of food by giving her tastes of whatever we are eating. Her favorite thing to do is walk around with a slice of pickle, licking it and saying "pickle" over and over and over. : )
I am so proud of my Little Biter!