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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Q&A with Debra Beckman

Published April 17, 2012 9:00 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling
I recently had the opportunity to have a dialogue with Debra Beckman, of Beckman Oral Motor.

As per her website, "Debra Beckman has worked in the field of communicative disorders since 1975, specializing in motor speech disorders. She has worked in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, universities, trauma centers, home-bound, foster homes, group homes, Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded (ICF-MRs), nursing homes and large residential facilities. As a self-employed consultant, she has co-authored training materials for the states of Florida, Oklahoma and Wyoming, which are presently used in a number of states. She has served as a court-appointed witness and as a resource content expert for seven federal court cases regarding services for the developmentally disabled. Ms. Beckman has presented at numerous local, state, national and international conferences and has published articles in professional books, journals, monographs and Exceptional Parent magazine. She has been awarded a United States patent for a therapeutic oral probe. Ms. Beckman has been recognized by her peers and her community for outstanding clinical achievement."

Join me now for this week's post, which is the first in a two-part question-and-answer discussion with this experienced and highly trained and established therapist.

Stephanie: Can you please give our readers an overview of your program?

Debra: I am so happy to have this opportunity to speak with you and your readers. Beckman Oral Motor Assessment and Intervention (BOMAI) is a criteria-referenced clinical assessment and intervention approach used to increase components of muscle response to pressure and movement, range of movement, strength, variety and control of movement for the lips, cheeks, jaw, tongue and soft palate. Because the approach does not require cognitive participation, it is a wonderful strategy for a wide variety of individuals with impaired oral motor skills. This approach has been used in a number of well-designed research studies and published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Pediatrics. I also train therapists around the world in the BOMAI approach. I have trained over 50,000 therapists.

Stephanie: I see that you began your program in 1975. Can you talk about what prompted you to do so?

Debra: When I began my first job as a speech pathologist, I was serving individuals who were not able to follow commands. As a result, most of the wonderful therapy strategies that I learned in my university program were not effective for these individuals. As I observed the changes being made for function of the muscles from the neck down by the occupational and physical therapists for these same individuals, I saw that these therapists were making functional changes for these same people using assisted movement. I knew that there must be a way to do the same for the little muscles of the face. I began reading and researching oral muscle response to pressure and movement. There is a list of Suggested Reading on the website if your readers are interested. With a lot of attention to detail, assessment and revision, the BOMAI approach has evolved to the present state, with more changes to come. As we learn more about the best way to organize movement for these very special muscles of the face, we will continue to develop our treatment strategies. It is critical that the intervention strategies be quantified to be able to track change over time.

ASHA has a position statement that says not to provide non-speech activities for individuals with speech impairment. I agree completely with that statement. However, the statement does not go far enough. It is imperative that each therapist complete an extensive baseline assessment to rule in or to rule out any co-occurring issues or concerns. Our interventions are only as effective as our baseline information. I do not believe that everyone on my caseload has hearing impairment, but I always make certain that a hearing screening is completed. Wouldn't it be tragic to have poor response to speech therapy, only to find out six months later that the underlying problem was a hearing impairment? That is how I view assessment for oral motor concerns. It would be tragic to find out months later that the poor response to speech therapy was due to an underlying problem with motor control that needed to be addressed. The Beckman Oral Motor Protocol is now my Oral Peripheral Exam, because it gives me much more quantified information to use to decide if any intervention for motor control is needed. If there is no deficit for oral motor control, there is no need to treat it. However, if there is an oral motor area of concern, motor control is more stable for other functions if that is addressed, whether it is control of secretions, eating or speech. I like using Beckman Oral Motor because it is a systematic approach that gives great results without requiring lots of time or the purchase of expensive equipment.

Please join me next week as Debra and I continue our conversation, discussing how the Beckman Oral Motor program can benefit children in early intervention, as well as her thoughts on the changing nature of oral motor therapy in 2012.



Great to hear! Thank you both so much for your positive feedback!

stephanie bruno dowling, blog author April 19, 2012 9:13 PM

this is great! can't wait to read more. I completed her seminar several years ago and now it's all coming back. thank you for bringing this technique back into the conversation!

Gloglix April 18, 2012 12:29 AM

I attended her workshop along with my SLP coworkers serveral years ago and will go for a refresher shortly. It is very valuable.

Kathi, Early Intervention - SLP, Berrien RESA April 17, 2012 6:46 PM
Berrien County MI

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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