The Tools of The Trade

February 3, 2014 cl/cp, Education, Jennifer, speech delay, speech therapy 4 Comments

If I had to do it all over again, I would have been a speech therapist. It’s funny how things work sometimes; I never expected to spend five years of my life in group and individual speech therapy with both of my biological boys for oral motor and articulation issues. Now my oldest boy competes in speech competitions and the other is almost finished with his time in speech. And along comes Grace, who will spend quite a bit of time in speech, likely into her elementary years. Thankfully, she loves speech therapy or as she calls it, “MY speech.” Thankfully I love speech therapists and have had a couple as close friends along the way. What they do is extraordinary and it does change the game for three of my four kiddos. It’s funny that when we began the adoption process, that was far from my mind. Yes, cleft lip/palate was on our list but from my perspective , it was pretty low on the list and not likely. Funny how things work and funny that spending portions of the week in speech therapy was already pretty comfortable for our family.

So, this post is specific to those considering adopting a cleft lip/palate special needs child. What would 2-14 procedures look like? What would speech therapy for around 4 or 5 years look like? It seems very daunting and overwhelming and is still for us sometimes like a big unknown. But sometimes it looks like this.

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Yes, that’s right. Smarties. Smarties to help teach sweet Grace how to use her muscular little tongue to position and hold a Smartie at the front of her newly acquired palate. Big fun when you are able to hold it there. Even more fun when you get to eat it afterward! That simple motion encouraged by candy is setting a foundation for specific sounds to be heard loud and clear. “Love” gets placed there, as does “Like.” These are important words to say and be understood in for a two year old! Sometimes speech therapy looks a bit like this…

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An alligator muscle stimulator and massager for lip rounding and closure!
If you’ve ever had surgery, you know that scar tissue can be a beast to untangle and loosen up and that muscles are weak. And sweet little cleft palate children have to relearn some strength and retraction and an entire list of things we take for granted. So Talk Tools has fun devices called Z Vibes and Jigglers to encourage massage with a sensory awareness brought on by the vibration of cute alligators or pink mice.

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Overwhelming medical terms in cleft lip/palate land can be just that. Overwhelming. But alligators and candy and jigglers are much more my language. I want to know the bottom line and what it will really look like. The truth is, the speech therapy part looks like fun. Like play. With candy! Tongue tip lateralization is just a bonus in my book.

The surgery and devices in cleft lip/palate land are also overwhelming. It was why I originally thought that we would not pick this special need. Says the mom who was just yesterday pulling chewed up chicken out of her biological eight year old’s palate expander newly placed by her orthodontist. Cranking it with a plier like tool, my hands all in her tiny mouth while she is almost upside down so I can see it. Turns out both of my girls have some palate needs. And we roll with it. In a couple of years, I will be both a speech therapy expert and an orthodontic device specialist. And it isn’t overwhelming. Funny how in all of our worry and feeling unprepared, we get prepared. We are prepared. Funny how things work.

4 responses to “The Tools of The Trade”

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for sharing about sweet Grace and your speech experience. It sounds like you’re an honorary SLP!

    I found your blog because my parents invented the Z-Vibe, and I thought I’d send you some blog posts that you may find useful:
    • Fun, edible oral motor exercises:
    • oral motor exercises:
    • oral motor exercises with the Z-Vibe:

    Let me know if you hve any questions!

  2. Jennifer Barnett says:

    Your parents invented the Z-vibe! How fun is that? We were introduced to them through speech therapy and love them. Grace has a lot of movement from using them! May I ask what prompted that invention? It is a great idea! Thank you for the posts – I am excited to see them!

  3. My three kids were born with cl/p. we have the hardest time getting my son’s food out of the space between his expander and palate. We use the Waterpik. Unfortunately, he still has a large fistula in his palate so when the water shoots up it goes in his nose. So obviously, he HATES the Waterpik. He’s 8. Can’t wait for his next surgery, poor little guy. But we haven’t found anything else that’s as effective. While we have ongoing daily issues with my one son’s palate, we forget that my other two have palate issues, other than speech classes. It’s interesting, the range of severity cl/p can be. Would adopt another child with cl/p in a heart beat if just being a parent, in general, weren’t so stinking hard.

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