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Monday, August 22, 2011 - Methodist Speech Therapy has Parents of Troubled Eater Saying “Hot Diggety Dog”

There may be nothing more heartbreaking to a mother than seeing her child suffer and feeling helpless to stop it.  That was the situation Tiffanee Higgins was faced with when her 11-month-old daughter Maycee suddenly stopped eating and began to lose weight.  Maycee’s parents took her to the pediatrician who recommended they see a specialist who diagnosed Maycee as having an allergy to dairy.

“Everything we fed her had dairy in it and it was upsetting her stomach,” remembers Tiffanee.  “She got to the point where she wouldn’t put anything in her mouth.” 

The specialist recommended that Maycee be put on a feeding tube.  “I was terrified,” says Tiffanee.

She returned to the pediatrician to look for other options and she was referred to Methodist Therapy’s pediatric speech therapy program.

“I was skeptical at first,” remembers Tiffanee, who couldn’t see how speech therapy would help Maycee eat.

Tiffanee decided to give it a try, and she and Maycee met with speech pathologist Diane Stetzel, M.S., CCC/SLP. 

“When we went in for the evaluation, Maycee wouldn’t even let Diane touch her face,” says Tiffanee.

Maycee’s reaction to her allergy had scared her away from anything associated with her mouth.  Her mother notes that she wouldn’t even put toys in her mouth or drink from a sippy cup.  So Diane started the therapy by simply touching things to Maycee’s lips. 

Maycee would get upset during the therapy, but singing would calm her down.  “Diane sang to her the entire time,” says Tiffanee.  “We called it ‘Dinner and a Show.’”  

Maycee’s favorite song is the “Hot Dog Song,” but Diane didn’t know it.  “She went online and memorized it,” says Tiffanee. “She’s so dedicated to her kids.  I attribute Maycee’s success and progress to that.”

With time, Maycee began to let Diane put food in her mouth and finally began feeding herself.

Parents play an active part in making this therapy successful in helping their child to eat.  They may attend therapy sessions with the child, learn new eating techniques to use with the child and maintain structure for mealtimes and snacks.

Since Tiffanee learned the techniques used with Maycee during therapy, she knew how to apply what was done during the sessions to life at home.

Tiffanee says that her experience with Methodist Therapy has opened her eyes to the many options that are available for a problem.  “You don’t have to take the easy way,” she notes, saying that the feeding tube would have fixed Maycee’s symptoms and put weight on her, but therapy has corrected the source of the problem.

“Therapy wasn’t easy,” says Tiffanee who took Maycee to therapy twice a week for nearly five months. She and her husband have four kids and run their own business.  This family of six, who lives just outside of Norris, is always on the go.  But part of Maycee’s therapy is the routine of eating. 

“If she doesn’t eat at a certain time, she won’t eat,” says Tiffanee, also noting that if there is an interruption in the middle of her feeding, she won’t finish.  “We’ve made adjustments with the whole family.”  It’s difficult, but Maycee’s family is there to support her needs, even her three-year-old brother enjoys helping with feedings.

“My husband and I are very thankful that we were sent that direction,” says Tiffanee of their experience with Methodist Therapy.

In a letter that she wrote to their therapist, Diane, Tiffanee says, “You saved me from the heartache of seeing my child with a feeding tube! I can never thank you enough for your caring spirit and patience with us!! You are an amazing therapist and person!!”

Maycee is now 17-months-old.  She has improved her ability to eat; she’s gaining weight and has been released from therapy.  She has a happy, healthy future ahead of her.

As Maycee’s favorite “Hot Dog Song” says, “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog; It’s a brand new day.” And that’s just what it is for Maycee and her family.