Posted by Claudia Grazioso on October 31, 2011
When parents have a baby born with a cleft palate, they have a lot of immediate questions about treatment and care. And fortunately for children born with cleft palates – a birth defect that has been linked to a mother’s use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) and other antidepressants during pregnancy – treatment is usually successful and effective. But therapy for cleft palate doesn’t stop at a surgical procedure to repair the palate. Parents still need to remain vigilant, especially as their child matures and begins to learn to speak.
Speech impediments and delayed speech are very common in children who were born with a cleft palate. Because the palate was either incompletely or incorrectly formed, children with this birth defect usually have difficulties with projection and forming many of the normal speech sounds. They also sometimes have a nasally sound to their speech, which can make it difficult to understand them. Additionally, children with cleft palates are also frequently more susceptible to ear infections, which can cause a further delay in speech.
The good news is that speech therapy is very effective at treating speech problems related to cleft palates. If your child was born with a cleft palate, have your child evaluated by a good speech therapist who can work with your baby both between treatments and after their completion. Also, observe your child, and when he or she starts to try to speak, be encouraging. As my pediatrician advised me: Talk, talk, talk — and then talk some more. Support your child’s efforts to communicate and know that even if they do require speech therapy, many children born with cleft palates overcome their speech difficulties, sometimes as early as by age five. At the very least, these speech issues are usually very minimized so your child can communicate effectively with his or her family and peers. But don’t delay: Most experts agree that the best results happen when parents act quickly and start speech therapy when their child is young.