When children are born cleft affected, they first have their lip repaired to facilitate feeding as well as for cosmetic reasons. A little later on the cleft palate will be repaired in order to restore articulation ability and to support the structure of the face. Without palate repair, speech will remain unintelligible.
Because Cami had heard her first words in English in August of last year, and because she had an unrepaired cleft palate at that time, she qualified for speech and language therapy in our county's Early Intervention program.
After surgery in March to repair the palate, it took about 6 weeks for the swelling to go down and allow her speech to return to "normal". We continued speech therapy through most of this time because Cami was receptive and learning, even though her speech wasn't changing quickly. I didn't really understand before that just getting a palate doesn't mean you know what to do with it.
So once a week, our speech therapist comes to our home with a bag of toys.....balls, and books, play doh, dolls, tea sets..... all sorts of magical things. Her goal is to flood Cami with certains sounds and then for me to continue the trend during the week.
Cami looks forward to her speech therapy. She loves to watch by the window and then run to the door to let Miss Jodi in the house.
Today Miss Jodi brought cool party favor type blowers. Cami is trying to learn to close off her nose so air doesn't escape that way. She has to engage her palate to make this happen. The blowers were a big success. They helped her see what she needed to do with her mouth to make all the air come out the same place.
Another exercise uses a mirror so Cami can see what position her mouth is while doing some crazy tongue exercises. Because she did not have the ability as a baby to make all the baby sounds, there is some degree of low muscle tone in her tongue and mouth.
Another fun activity involves feeding the animals who faces are on a box. Cami is required to ask for the correct food for each animal..... bone for the dog, carrot for the bunny, etc. Here she is negotiating getting two bones for the dog!
It really has been great fun. We will miss our home speech therapy. At the end of the summer, Cami will age out of Early Intervention. Her speech will then be provided through the school system. We will take her to the local elementary school for two sessions a week. At this point I don't know if speech therapy is something she will need her entire life, or if there will come a time when we graduate.
For now, we celebrate the small victories and the sometimes humorous leaps in language. For example, one of the sounds we had worked on with not much success was "k", as in Cami, car, carrot. Then just a couple days ago, Cami mimicked her mom who just shut a drawer on her finger, with a loud and CLEAR, "Ohhhh Crap". It was a beautiful breakthrough! I'm so proud I could be instrumental in her learning..... ROFL!