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The Benefits Of Cleft Palate Speech Therapy

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Parents are often worried about both short-term and long-term effects of cleft palate on their child's life. This condition can cause changes to a child's look, confidence, dental health, and even speech. You're doing a great job staying informed of their condition so you can best prepare them for any challenge they may face. We're here to help walk you through the benefits.

How Cleft Palate Affects Speech

Cleft palate refers to a split in your child's palate, the upper roof of the mouth. This split can occur alongside cleft lip and can also affect the upper jaw and gum. 

The cleft splits the palate into two parts: the bony, hard palate in the front and the soft palate made of muscle in the back. A hidden cleft palate (also called a submucous cleft palate) occurs when the mucous membrane covers the cleft and hides the condition from view. 

Cleft palate changes or hinders speech because it alters the structure of your child's mouth. Specifically, you create speech by making air pressure in your mouth before releasing it while touching your tongue to different parts of your mouth. In children with cleft palate and those who have not received proper speech therapy, they can release too much air into nasal passages. This problem can make it challenging to build up pressure and disrupts speech. 

The change in the palate's tissue often makes it difficult for the tongue to press against to create certain sounds. Those born with cleft palate often develop speech problems even with corrective surgery. These children often experience delays in developing proper speech patterns that can persist after treatment or surgery

Speech patterns can make you difficult to understand, hinder confidence, and change relationships with peers. While these problems can be frustrating, it's encouraging to remember that specialists in speech therapy are there to help you and your child. 

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy could be a great fit to help you clear hurdles associated with cleft palate. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association notes that speech problems in adulthood are often the result of inadequate access to speech therapy during childhood. 

Humans, especially children, are incredibly adaptable. Those without proper speech therapy often learn to compensate for their condition improperly. These bad habits can carry into adulthood and are difficult to change once established. 

Not all those with cleft palate need speech therapy, but it's vital to keep a close eye on development and stay informed on the condition. Rest easy knowing speech-language pathologists are well equipped to assist you and your child.  

Therapy Sessions

The word 'therapy' has negative associations for some. Fortunately, modern speech therapy might surprise you with its engaging methods and positive outcomes.

The Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research has even shown video games to be a promising speech therapy option. A device measures the amount of air moving through the nasal passage and provides real-time feedback. A video game offers an excellent interface to learn these skills in a fun, rewarding environment. 

Therapy methods can vary depending on the age and needs of the patient. Games, practice sessions, and drills are all standard. These focus on implementing new speech, articulation, articulation, or overcoming bad habits. 

Supporting Your Child

There is a wealth of options available to help your child overcome speech challenges from a cleft palate. Young children learn many skills and behaviors from imitating those around them. Speech is no exception. Parents and other role-models are a vital part of the child's development.

Fun methods to help your child with cleft palate:

  • Vocal play sessions like singing or rhyming
  • Games like I-Spy or the alphabet game (where they point out and name a thing starting with each letter of the alphabet)
  • Reading time, especially if you give phrases for your child to read aloud.
  • Role-modeling with clear speech
  • Encouraging your child to speak
  • Following drills recommended by a speech therapist

These options offer an exciting opportunity to get involved in your child's care and development. Even though cleft palates can present difficulties in speech, there are various opportunities to overcome these challenges. Together, parents and speech therapy can be a powerful team helping your child excel with their condition and experience personal growth in the process. 


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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