Remember that speech development can take time, but we are here to help. Most of all, enjoy being with your child.
If you have any questions about the below, please do not hesitate to contact either your local speech and language therapy department or speak to one of the Spires Cleft Centre team.
If your child would benefit from support with their speech and language development that is unrelated to their cleft, we may refer you to your local community speech and language therapy team.
To help your child, there are some games that you can try with them from birth. The aim of these is to help your child to:
- Listen to sounds and look at faces.
- Be aware of different sounds in speech.
- Play around with making different speech sounds.
It is very important to give your child the chance to play with sounds. Play games which encourage copying, but avoid forcing your child to copy sounds. It may take some time for your child to join in so keep the activities fun.
- Singing, talking and laughing are all fun and will encourage your child to make noises back to you. Use nursery rhymes and familiar songs. Talk about what you are doing (for example, at bedtime or bath time). Be sure your child is watching you when you talk or sing to them.
- Encourage your child to take turns in games with actions. For example, tickling games, rolling a ball to each other, or with rhymes like “The wheels on the bus”. You could also make faces in the mirror for them to look at and copy (for example, move your tongue up and down to the sides and around your mouth, make sounds with your tongue such as “la la”). Play lip games such as kissing and smiling in the mirror, and making “oo/ee” sounds. Copy the funny faces your child makes too – this encourages them to copy speech noises later.
- Use sounds that encourage your child to use their tongue and lips, like raspberry blowing and the sounds p,b,t,d. These are some of the early sounds that children use. Other sounds develop later in a child’s life, so do not be concerned if only a few are used at first. Try putting an action or object with a particular sound to encourage your child to watch and listen to the sound. Here are some ideas:
- Use bubbles for the sound p. Blow some bubbles then gently say the sound to pop them.
- Use a ball for the sound b. Hold the ball next to your mouth to draw your child’s attention to how you are making the sound and gently say the sound a few times. Then you can take turns to roll the ball.
- Use a toy drum for the sound d. Again hold the drum near to your mouth and hit it while gently saying the sound a few times. Encourage your child to bang the drum.
- Copy sounds that your child makes but don’t expect them to copy all your sounds yet. Your child may make throat noises – it is best NOT to copy these because we know children with cleft palate often use them in place of clear speech sounds because they find them easier to make.
- Reward your child for making sounds by giving lots of attention, cuddling, smiling and speaking to them. Responding to your child’s sounds will encourage talking.
- Take turns to babble. For example: aaahh/oo/eee, mama/baba, dada/deedee, gaga/geegee. You don’t always have to use real words.
- As your child gets older, encourage them to listen to different sounds. For example, use toys that make a noise, or use interesting tones in your voice. You could make car, train or animal noises for your child to copy. These games will help with listening skills that are needed for speech to develop.
- Always allow your child plenty of time to respond to your questions. You could create situations where your child needs to ask for things. For instance, give choices of food, toys and drinks, etc.
Encourage your child to use a cup or beaker. This encourages a more mature control of tongue and lips than sucking from a teat.
It is vital that your child can hear different sounds, so their hearing will be checked regularly.
University Hospitals Bristol have produced a useful video:
Sing and Say is a collection of resources created to encourage young children’s speech, language and communication development through play and song. These were created by our colleagues in Oxford.