The Role of the Speech Pathologist in Treating a Cleft Palate

It can be scary and heartbreaking to watch your child with a cleft palate struggle.  When treating a cleft palate, a multi-cleft palatedisciplinary team approach is the best way to provide the highest level of care to your child and your family. Allowing multiple team members to communicate often and coordinate approaches will result in a more comprehensive plan of care overall.  One indispensible member of this team is the speech pathologist.

How a Speech Pathologist Can Help Your Child with a Cleft Palate:

A speech pathologist is a critical part of your child’s cleft palate team.  Speech pathologists provide support from the early days by assisting with feeding and into childhood as your child masters speech with the continuous changes they will undergo the first few years of life.

From birth, feeding a child with a cleft palate may be a concern for parents. A speech pathologist will be able to provide strategies for adaptive techniques and useful tools to ease this difficulty. He or she will work closely with nutritionists and nursing specialists to provide the most effective care for your child and to ensure your child can maintain adequate nutrition orally.

As your child grows and develops, regular, consistent assessment of your child’s articulation skills is critical to determine if any production errors are the result of structural difficulties or compensation for your child’s weak/insufficient muscles.  The cleft palate team will determine if your child’s speech and language is appropriate for development.  A trial period of speech therapy may be suggested prior to an additional surgery. A speech pathologist will also screen for hearing impairments, which may co-occur with a cleft palate.  This can cause difficulty with understanding and/or acquiring sounds and language.

Finally, the role of advocate is also a critical piece to the team offered by the speech pathologist. The speech pathologist can assist you by providing information regarding useful websites, helpful publications and information regarding local school districts and the care that is available to you and your family.

Helping your child with a cleft palate can be a difficult journey, but with the right help, your child will overcome the challenges of this condition.

Do you have more questions about helping your child with a cleft palate?  Click here to learn about our speech pathology program or call us at 877-486-4140.


Home programs are important for the generalization of speech and language therapy goals. With today’s busy lifestyles, families need to be taught how to practice with children without putting life on pause. There are common goal categories that SLP uses to create clients’ individual goals. These include the improvement of: expressive and receptive vocabulary skills, production of specific sounds, reading and writing, problem solving, and pragmatic conversational skills. It is always important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of therapy is to help children communicate successfully outside the therapy setting.Busy mother communicating with child

Here are some activities that build on each category:

  1. Parents can build children’s vocabulary skills in any setting by thinking out loud. Identify objects, people,  activities, pronouns, and adjectives. Asking “what’s this?” then allows the child an opportunity  to practice new vocabulary. A good game to play for this is “I Spy.” Challenge the child by choosing less obvious items.
  2.  For production of specific sounds, parents can find objects that contain the target sounds. For example, street signs, grocery store aisles, and shopping lists all provide good opportunities to practice specific sounds. Parents need to adjust their amount of help based on the child’s skill level. This also improves reading and writing by increasing letter to sound awareness.
  3.  To improve problem solving skills, give the child clues to identify objects. A great game for this is “20 questions.” This is a good game to play while driving in the car or waiting in line. This game can also strengthen question formation and description skills.
  4.  Finally, pragmatic and conversational skills can be improved at home as well. Practice and provide a model for the child for greetings , asking for help, appropriate volume levels, appropriate eye contact, and body position during interactions.  Role-play is a good way for a child to practice conversational skills. For example, ask the child, “If you were the coach, how would you teach me?”

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