Like all children, those with clefts begin learning about speech from their very first day of life.
Clefts and Speech
People with clefts are sometimes difficult to understand. This is because they may lack many of the mouth structures necessary for clear speech, or did when they were learning to speak as children. Specifically, they may have one or more of the following issues:
- Language Delay
- Articulation Problems
- Nasal Air Emission
- Compensatory Articulation Errors
- Voice Problems
Early surgical intervention is usually the most effective way to help children with clefts learn to speak clearly. Their speech and communication skills should be followed closely by a trained speech professional as they grow. Even after cleft palate surgery, these children may still need specialized therapy to correct their speech. They may also need a second palate surgery to ensure that their mouths can produce clear speech.
Smile Train-supported speech services have been shown to help immensely in helping children with clefts speak clearly and with confidence.
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 who provides speech and language services in a medical setting, school setting, private clinic, or home-based intervention program. The overall goal of speech therapy is to have the child achieve normal speech and communication skills for their age and developmental level.
Speech Home Practice & Parent Resources
Practicing speech skills at home is essential to children’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. By helping at home, parents and caregivers make a real impact on their child’s progress in speech therapy and on their overall speech outcomes. Smile Train has an extensive library of free parent education information 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 app encourages children to practice more often from the comfort of their own home for better speech outcomes. It is available in English in the 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.