A new device was recently designed by Purdue University researchers that can strengthen the jaw and teeth of infants with Down syndrome. The device aims to help children speak and eat sooner by strengthening the muscles present around the oral cavity.
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Babies born to Down syndrome often have low muscle tone and a protruding tongue that make it very difficult to speak and eat. These challenges inspired industrial designer and Purdue University alumna, Hannah Ferrill, to design the jaw-strengthening teether. The inspiration comes particularly from her older brother Jon who was born with Down syndrome and died a few months after birth. She worked to design the product as part of her senior project at Purdue and in partnership with Down Sydrome Indiana’s program coordinator, Stephanie Garner who helped interview parents looking for something simple to use for their children outside therapy sessions.
“My mom expressed to me that she could not find any products that were designed for my brother,” Ferrill said. “After researching, I found that there were still few products out there and I knew I wanted to do something to change that.”
The product comes in blue and yellow, the colors of Down syndrome awareness, it is also shaped like a teddy bear with pads for ears and encourages children to bite on the product which allows the teether to light up and play music. It also includes a section made with silicone gel that can be stored in freeing temperatures to relieve pain in teething babies.
“I would love for this teether to make it into the hands of new parents and babies when they are born,” Ferrill said. “I hope this teether can be a beautiful way to help them celebrate their precious new life.”
Ferrill is hopeful that the teether may someday be included in the new parent packages given to families.
Source: Purdue University