communicate in nonverbal ways (listening, taking turns, etc.)
Who Does Speech-Language Therapy?
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) — also called speech therapists
— treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. They have at least
a master's degree and state certification/licensure in the field, and a certificate
of clinical competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Speech-language pathologists help kids with speech disorders (like stuttering),
hearing problems, and other medical conditions, including cleft palate.
How Does Speech-Language Therapy Help Kids With Cleft Palate?
SLPs who work with children with cleft
palate have extra training to recognize and treat specific problems caused by
a cleft palate. Children born with a cleft palate may need speech-language therapy
to help with problems such as:
Articulation and Resonance Disorders
An articulation disorder is when a child has trouble making specific
sounds. "Cleft palate speech" refers to speech sound errors that are more common in
kids with a cleft palate. These include:
Glottal stops: formed by a "pop" of air when the child forces
his/her vocal folds (located in the voice box) together. The release of air can make
it sound like a child is omitting a consonant (like saying "–all" for "ball").
Nasal fricatives: formed by directing the stream of air through
the nasal cavity, instead of the oral cavity, during speech. It sounds like the child
is "talking through his/her nose" for particular sounds, like S in the word "sun."
Pharyngeal (fair-en-JEE-ul) fricatives: formed
by pressing the base of the tongue against the back of the throat and releasing a
stream of air for speech. It can sound like the child is using a "raspy H" for particular
sounds, like SH in the word "shoe."
Mid-dorsum palatal stops: formed when the middle of the tongue
contacts the middle of the roof of the mouth and used as a substitute for these sounds:
T, D, K, and G. When the child produces a mid-dorsum palatal stop, it often sounds
"in between" a T and a K.
A resonance disorder refers to an unusual amount of nasal sound
energy when the child is talking, which can result in:
hypernasality (too much nasal sound energy): This makes a child sound "nasally."
hyponasality (too little nasal sound energy): This makes a child sound like he/she
has a cold.
mixed (a bit of both) resonance
Hypernasality may mean that the child's palate is not working properly, called
velopharyngeal (vee-low-fair-en-JEE-ul) dysfunction. This can make it hard for others
to understand the child's speech, and might need further treatment.
What Are the Goals of Speech Therapy for Children With Cleft Palate?
Speech therapy works best when a speech-language pathologist works one-on-one with
a child. Sometimes, though, therapy is done in small groups.
The main goals to help children with "cleft palate speech" are to:
Establish correct articulation (placement, manner, and voicing) using articulation
Ensure there is good oral pressure during sound production.
Establish new motor speech patterns that replace speech sound errors.
How Can Parents Help?
Speech therapy should begin as soon as possible. Children who start speech therapy
early tend to have greater success. Therapy also can help older kids, but their progress
can be slower because their motor patterns are more ingrained.
Support from parents is key to the success of a child's progress in speech therapy.
Kids who complete the program quickest and with the longest-lasting results are those
whose parents are involved.
Your therapist should give homework for you and your child to do after each session.
Helping your child complete these activities will ensure continued progress and carryover
of new skills. For example, practicing the P sound for 30 minutes a week in therapy
is much more effective when it's also done for 10 minutes a day at home.
The process of overcoming a speech or language disorder can take some time and
effort. So it's important that all family members be patient and understanding.
How Can We Find a Speech Therapist?
The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) lists cleft
teams by state on their website. To be accredited by the ACPA, each team must
have a speech-language pathologist on staff. Your team SLP can recommend other cleft-trained
SLPs in your area if you want to use school-based and/or private services. Ask the
if they have worked with children with these specific speech sound errors
how many children with cleft palate they have worked with
The SLP should be certified by ASHA.
Sometimes, speech assistants (who usually have a 2-year associate's or 4-year bachelor's
degree) may assist with speech-language services under the supervision of ASHA-certified
SLPs. Your child's SLP should be licensed in your state and have experience working
with kids and your child's specific disorder.