All children born with a cleft lip and/or palate are seen by a specialist speech and language therapist in the cleft service. If your child has a cleft lip only, individual appointments are not required. However a speech and language therapist is always available at the cleft clinics should you have any concerns about your child's speech and language.
Your child will be seen by our speech and language therapists at specific points in their development, but we also offer additional assessment and therapy if needed.
You child's care plan
Age 0-6 months
A speech and language therapist will be present at the cleft clinic you attend with your child. If you want to have a separate appointment with the therapist to discuss speech and language development, please ask.
Following palate repair surgery, a speech and language therapist will spend time with you to talk about speech and language development. You will be given advice on how you can help your child's speech and language and we'll also give you more detailed information about how the palate functions during speech.
A therapist will assess your child's speech and language to see how it is developing. We'll spend time talking with you about all aspects of your child's development and we'll watch you and your child play together in order to assess their communication skills.
At this age your child may be able to use a range of single words and may be starting to put them together into short sentences. We may give you advice on how to stimulate language or sound production. You'll be able to ask questions about any concerns you may have.
Follow-up appointments will depend on the outcome of your child's assessment. Sometimes we will carry out another review six months later at age two and a half.
Your child's speech will be assessed at a cleft clinic and we will continue to monitor your child's speech sound progress. We'll also check whether their palate is closing effectively in order to make strong oral consonant sounds for speech.
As your child grows
We will carry out assessments and speech recordings of your child when they attend cleft clinic appointments at ages five, 10, 15 and 20.
Your child will be seen in the local cleft clinic nearest to your home for routine speech assessments by our service. If regular speech and language therapy is needed, it will be offered as close to home as possible. This could be a local clinic, school or at an outreach cleft clinic. Specialist investigations take place at St Thomas' Hospital.
Patients without a cleft palate diagnosis
We also see children where there is a concern that their velopharyngeal function for speech is not working well enough. This is where the soft palate does not close with the back of the throat properly in order to make strong oral pressure sounds such as “b, d, s, k” etc. Speech may sound overly nasal in tone, it may have some accompanying nasal airflow alongside it or unusual speech patterns may have developed. We are able to provide assessment, management and therapy where required.
For further information on how to refer children with suspected affected velopharyngeal function, see our hospital speech and language therapy referral page.