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Cleft Palate

We have a dynamic team of Speech Language Pathologists who are members of the American Cleft Palate Association with experience in working with children with cleft palates and other types of palate dysfunction and their families.

We are strong advocates for Early Speech Language Intervention, to reduce the need for long term speech and language therapy.  They can start as early as 4-6 months of age.  When the children are young they are beginning to make sounds with cooing and babbling.  We want to help the children learn to make these sounds in their mouths from the beginning.  We can work with the parents to help them facilitate this in their daily interactions with their babies.  We can also work with the parents to help their child develop age appropriate understanding of language and use of early communication.

If your child has early speech and language delays, we can work with them on a more frequent basis to minimize their delay.  This can begin as soon as a delay is identified.  It is much easier to correct a small delay or disorder, than to wait and see if it gets better and end up with a much more significant delay.

Therapy for children with cleft palates and palate dysfunction focuses on helping children to learn to make speech sounds with the correct articulatory placement.  This means that we teach them to make the sound with their tongue, lips, and palate in the correct place, even if it does not sound perfect.  This makes it much easier to get clear speech once their palate is working properly.  We work with children to maximize the use of their palate for speech.  We work closely with the Maxillofacial Review Board to provide the most effective intervention, and make team recommendations regarding additional medical interventions that may be needed to improve palatal function.

Children with cleft lip, cleft palate, or palate dysfunction are at risk for language delays.  We work on increasing children’s understanding and use of language.

Velopharyngeal Mislearning occurs when a child has not learned to close their palate correctly for speech. With mislearning, their palate is physically able to close, but they have learned to make some sounds as nasal sounds.  This can be corrected with specialized speech therapy.

Velopharyngeal Incompetence occurs when a child’s palate cannot achieve adequate closure.  This occurs when the palate cannot make solid contact with the back wall of the pharynx.  Our specialized speech language pathologists can help to differentiate velopharyngeal mislearning from structural incompetence, and work with the other members of the Maxillofacial Team to maximize palatal function.  We can also help your child learn to use their “new” palate after palate repair or revision.

National Resources for Cleft Palate

  • The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA)
  • Cleft Palate Foundation
  • National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
  • Operation Smile
  • KidsHealth.org

Local Resources for Cleft Palate

  • Spokanesmile.com – Community network to connect local families
  • Washington.providence.org – Spokane’s Maxillofacial Program, Providence Sacred Heart
  • Laurie Vessey – Team Coordinator for Spokane’s Maxillofacial Program - PH: 509-474-3106 or EMAIL: Laurel.Vessey@Providence.org