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.