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Speech and language therapy

Many children born with a cleft lip and palate develop speech like any other child, without needing speech and language therapy. Children born with an isolated cleft lip (a cleft lip without a cleft palate) do not usually have speech problems related to their cleft. 

As with any child it is important to talk, sing and play with your baby from birth to encourage sound making and sound games. As your child gets older, these will become speech sounds and words. To find out how you can support your child’s language and communication skills, see resources for general speech and language development.

What is a speech and language therapist (SLT)?

At the Spires Cleft Centre, our speech and language therapy team specialise in working with children born with a cleft lip and palate. We work in partnership with the speech and language therapy  service in your local area to help with your child’s speech and language development from an early age. Some children with complex feeding difficulties may also benefit from a team approach with help from a speech and language therapist with specialist training in eating / drinking.  

Speech and language therapists will be at the multidisciplinary clinics along with other members of the Spires Cleft Centre team (see Oxford clinics and Salisbury clinics), but we may also plan separate appointments with you if necessary. 

If your child develops speech and language difficulties that are not related to their cleft (these can occur just as they do in other children), we will put you in touch with your local speech and language therapy service. They will tell you what is available locally as this can vary from region to region.  

You can, of course, contact us at any time with any questions that you have.

Contact Oxford centre | Contact Salisbury centre

When will I meet a speech and language therapist?

First appointment

A speech and language therapist is often present at your first appointment at the Spires Cleft Centre (at the Oxford Surgical clinic or Salisbury Early Years clinic). For the majority of families, this appointment mainly focuses on meeting the surgeon and getting information about an upcoming operation. However, if you have any initial questions about your child’s speech development, we will be happy to discuss this with you.

Multidisciplinary clinics / team reviews

A speech and language therapist is usually present at most of the multidisciplinary clinics you will attend with the Spires Cleft Centre team. This includes the clinical review clinics that take place at the ages of 3, 5, 10 and 15. See Oxford clinics and Salisbury clinics for more details.

Speech and language outpatient clinics

We also run specific speech and language outpatient clinics. Here, you will meet with one of the speech and language therapists who will make recommendations specifically tailored to your child, based on their strengths and needs with communication. This includes:

  • Early advice session
    This is usually the first appointment where you meet with a speech and language therapist only (as opposed to meeting with them as part of the wider team). You will be invited to this session around the time of your baby’s cleft palate repair.  A speech and language therapist will meet with you to explain speech development and suggest some techniques to help your baby develop speech sounds. The session is informal and play-based and will allow you to ask any questions you might have. See the Oxford Speech and Language Outpatient clinic and Salisbury Speech and Language Outpatient clinic for more information, including locations.
  • Palatal investigation
    You will be invited to this clinic if we think your child’s palate is not working effectively (usually resulting in nasal speech). See Oxford Palatal Investigation clinic or Salisbury Palatal Investigation clinic for more information.
  • Other appointments
    Sometimes regular sessions or a block of therapy appointments will be recommended. To begin, the speech and language therapist will spend some time listening to and playing with your child to assess their speech. They will then work together with you to create opportunities for your child to learn new sounds. The speech and language therapist will show you age-appropriate activities to try at home and provide resources. As your child makes progress, the speech and language therapist will show you new ways and new activities to help your child continue to achieve clearer speech. It is important that you try the tasks at home to help your child use their new sounds in different situations. See the Oxford Speech and Language Outpatient clinic and Salisbury Speech and Language Outpatient clinic for more information, including locations.

Meet the team

Oxford speech and language therapists | Salisbury speech and language therapists

Therapy approaches

  • Multisensory Input Modelling
  • Articulation Therapy
  • Electropalatography
    This involves having a special plate made to wear inside the mouth during therapy tasks. It allows the person wearing it to see exactly how their tongue is moving. Electropalatography is only suitable for a small number of people. Your speech and language therapist will advise if this might be helpful.
  • Visual Feedback Therapy
    We sometimes use specialist computer programmes to help people understand their own speech mechanism. These programmes can provide individual, real-time feedback to help to change speech. This approach is only recommended for a small selection of people. Your speech and language therapist will tell you if this might be helpful.

Working with others

Your speech and language therapist will liaise with your local community speech and language therapy team as needed. A referral may be suggested if we feel your child would benefit from some extra local sessions, wider communication support, or to ensure regular support into their educational settings.

The specialist speech and language therapists in the Spires Cleft Centre cover different areas in the region:

Geographical areas Specialist Speech and Language Therapist
Wiltshire, Guernsey and Isle of Wight Ginette Phippen (Lead)
Portsmouth and  Isle of Wight Sandra Treslove
Southampton and Dorset Sonya Lidiard
Hampshire and West Sussex Philippa Humes

Speech and language therapy as an adult

The Spires Cleft Centre speech and language service is open to adults of all ages. This includes those who have had ongoing treatment with the Spires Cleft Centre since childhood as well as people wishing to return to consider their cleft care at a later stage in life. We work as part of the multidisciplinary team alongside surgical, orthodontic, restorative dentistry and psychology colleagues. See our multidisciplinary team.

The service is able to provide specialist assessment and treatment of speech difficulties related to cleft lip and palate and palate dysfunction. You may or may not have seen a speech and language therapist in the past but, if there are any aspects of your speech that you would like to discuss, you are welcome to request an appointment.

Contact Oxford centre | Contact Salisbury centre