After cleft palate surgery children need speech therapy to strengthen palatal muscles for proper speech. Qualified speech therapists offer services to these patients on regular basis. British speech therapist visits Cleft Hospital annually to standardize procedures for international standards.
Why Does a Cleft Palate Interfere with Speech?
The roof of your mouth has a hard palate and a soft palate. The hard palate, made of bone, is in the front, and the soft palate, made of tissues, is in the back. If your child has a cleft palate, it means that he has an opening in the palate. Velopharyngeal dysfunction (VPD) occurs when the opening between the mouth and the nose cannot close properly. This results in excessive airflow from the nose while your child is speaking, also called hypernasality. Although this can be corrected with surgery, some youngsters still experience VPD. Fortunately, one study of cleft palate patients indicated that the prognosis for achieving normal speech with the assistance of an SLP is quite good. Within about six to eight weeks of beginning speech therapy, your child should demonstrate measurable progress in his speech and language skills.
How does speech therapist help?
In order to speak correctly, there must be a good seal between the mouth and the nasal passage. This is ensured by the movement of the soft palate at the back of the mouth and the movement of the walls of the throat, (See fig. A).
Babies born with a cleft palate, with or without a cleft lip, may have speech problems. There is difficulty in making the proper sound of the consonants (such as ‘p’ ,’b’,’t’,’d’,’s’,’ch’), and/or a nasal sound to the voice due to air escaping down the nose, (see fig. B). These children should be routinely checked by a speech and language therapist, who will help your child speak as well as possible. This starts with monitoring your baby’s first sounds and words and the understanding of what is said. The therapist designs a special program of activities appropriate to the age and development of the child. If there is a ‘nasal’ sound to your child’s voice, the therapist may use special computer equipment, or a mirror under the nose to monitor the air passages as your child speaks. Often a tape recorder or video is used. There are methods to examine the way the soft palate and side walls of the throat move during speech.