Helping Jude Talk

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Jude Countryman has cerebral palsy. When he was born, his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, damaging nerves that control his mouth and tongue.

"We're fortunate, because he's mostly neurologically intact and a very bright kid," Jeremy Countryman, Jude's father, told Ivanhoe.

But he struggles with talking and eating. When his parents didn't see enough progress with speech and occupational therapy, they turned to a device designed for stroke patients.

"They thought, well, if Jude is having similar issues controlling muscle groups around his lips and tongue and throat that maybe this would work for him," Jeremy said.

A small electrical current contracts his facial muscles, strengthening them.

Patients use the VitalStim device three times a week for about an hour, in combination with speech therapy.

"The more we can eat and swallow and practice that movement while we've got those electrodes on, the better results you'll see," Polly Bohannon, M.S., C.C.C.-S.L.P., a speech language pathologist at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare in Tallahassee, Fla., told Ivanhoe.

"I realized when he was talking at one point that something was different about his face, and I couldn't quite figure out what it was at first, but then I realized his upper lip was moving when he was talking," Jude's mother, Erin Belieu, told Ivanhoe. "I was just like, 'Wow!'"

For his parents, a little progress means everything.

"I want him to be able to dream as big as he wants to dream and to have the opportunity to get there," Jeremy said.

A young boy working hard to find his voice.

VitalStim is FDA-approved to use on kids and infants.

Tallahassee Memorial Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation Center
(850) 431-6220

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