Like all children, those with clefts begin learning about speech from their very first day of life.
Clefts and Speech
Like all children, those with clefts palate begin learning about speech from their very first day of life. Unlike most other children, however, their mouths and lips can make developing normal speech habits impossible. They may be difficult to understand because of one or more of the following communication problems:
- Language Delay
- Articulation Problems
- Nasal Air Emission
- Compensatory Articulation Errors
- Voice Problems
Early surgical repair usually provides a much-improved mechanism for speech. As children with cleft lip and/or palate grow, the development of speech and communication skills should be followed closely by a trained speech professional. Even after cleft palate repair, children may need specialized therapy in order to correct their speech. They may also need a second palate surgery to ensure that their palatal structures and muscles are in place for proper speech.
Early Surgical Treatment
The following links offer more information about understanding cleft-affected speech:
Speech Language Pathologist
A Speech-Language Pathologist, often referred to as a Speech Therapist, is a specially-trained healthcare professional that provides speech and language services in a medical setting, school setting, private clinic, or home-based intervention program. Typical goals of the therapy are to (1) establish correct articulatory placement; (2) maximize oral pressure for the pressure consonant sounds (plosives, fricatives, and affricates); and (3) maximize oral-pharyngeal articulatory function. The overall goal of therapy is to have the child achieve normal speech and communication for their age and developmental level.
Speech Home Practice & Parent Resources
Practicing speech skills at home is essential to a child’s success in speech therapy. While a Speech-Language Pathologist may work with a child weekly or monthly, parents and caregivers interact with their child daily. Parents and caregivers who help their child practice speech skills at home can make a tremendous difference in their child’s progress. Smile Train has an extensive library of free parent education resources and speech home-practice activities available in many languages.
Smile Train's Mobile Speech Services
Smile Train has developed a free, interactive speech services app with stories, games, and songs for children with clefts. This fun, convenient app encourages children to practice more often, for better speech outcomes. Available for free in English, Spanish, and Filipino in Google Play and Apple App Store.
Importance of Caregivers
Caregivers play an important role in a child’s speech and language development. Children will need encouragement and positive feedback when participating in treatment sessions and reinforcement when practicing in their everyday environment. It is important to work with a child’s speech development professional to cultivate a speech program that can be practiced at home. The following resources help caregivers understand their role and also practice speech at home.