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This one is about: Palate Surgery and/or Speech Therapy
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PALATE SURGERY AND/OR SPEECH THERAPY
My son Cory, (unilateral cleft lip and palate) is 5 now and began speech therapy on the advice of his cleft team at 15 months old. I wondered at the time if it was necessary, but he went three times a week to a therapist until he was 3 1/2.
Cory had a palate repair when he was 10 months old, but the docs told us his palate was extremely short and would require extensive therapy for him to get closure when he spoke. The therapy sessions concentrated on the correct formulation of words and sounds and bless his therapist, were times that he enjoyed because she made them fun. Days that he couldn't go he was actually disappointed.
Despite all of the therapy and Cory's hard work, when he was 3 1/2, he still could not be understood well because his speech was nasal and breathy. X-rays (I guess that's what they were -- he spoke while a speech pathologist watched the screen to see if there was palate closure) showed that he wasn't able to obtain closure even when straining. So, the docs decided a z-flap surgery was in order. He underwent the procedure and believe me, when it was over, it was apparent how well the speech therapy paid off. It was like a 1000% improvement. EVERYTHING he said, EVERYONE understood.
The docs and Cory's speech therapist all said that the early therapy was just as important as the surgery because of the two-fold factor -- 1) the palate had to work right; that is, the mechanisms had to be there, and 2) the correct usage had to be there; that is, formulation of words and sounds. They explained to us that had Cory not had early therapy, it was possible that he would have "corrected" his way of speaking in order to be understood, perhaps altering pronunciations and creating habits that would be hard to fix. With the early therapy, he learned the correct way to talk and when it was finally determined that he needed some help with the physical aspects of the palate closure, the surgery was a complete success in correcting his understandability.
Now, Cory's in kindergarten (he goes to an all-day school) and still attends speech therapy two afternoons a week after school. The premise here is to continue his good patterns and concentrate on his hearing due to the number of ear infections he has had. He still enjoys them because again, the therapy is combined with fun activities so it doesn't appear to be all work.
1 1/2 years later, he has been tested as completely age appropriate in his speech. I'm all for early and continued intervention. Hope our "success" story helps in your decision. Good luck to you and your little one.
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