Like all children, those born with cleft lip and/or palate begin learning about speech from the very first day of life.
Like all children, those born with cleft lip and/or palate begin learning about speech from the very first day of life. They probably make sounds similar to those made by most babies. However, the development of normal speech habits can be affected by cleft lip and/or palate since we use those body parts to form sounds. Cleft speech 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 specialised 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 repair
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 programme, Typical goals of the therapy are to (1) establish correct articulatory placement; (2) maximise oral pressure for the pressure consonant sounds (plosives, fricatives, and affricates); and (3) maximise 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.
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 app encourages children to practice more often from the comfort of their own home for better speech outcomes. Available in English and Spanish for free 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 practising in their everyday environment. It is important to work with a children’s speech development professional to cultivate a speech programme that can be practiced at home. The following resources help caregivers understand their role and also practice speech at home.