Speech therapy is relatively new to the Uplift Internationale mission. This is the 2nd year that it has been part of the mission focus. Theresa and Linda, both from the US said all the children there with cleft palates would have speech therapy. Sadly, that is not the case in the Philippines. In fact, on the entire island of Panay (where Kalibo is located) there is only 1 speech therapist! Indigent children here have no opportunity to learn how to improve their speech, so time with the therapists is something they do not want to miss.
Theresa and Linda meet with all the families and cleft palate repair patients. Each session lasts about 20 minutes. They try to teach the parents a few quick things so that they can be the “speech therapists”. After the reparative surgery the patients have to learn to direct air out their mouth and to use their “new palate”. Essentially they have to relearn how to say words and make sounds correctly. The little girl and her father pictured above were so excited about what they had learned that they left their speech session and started practicing immediately.
Both Theresa and Linda agree the biggest challenges are that there is no follow-up after surgery here and there is just 1 speech therapist for the entire island. They both believe that speech therapy can really help these kids. They feel as though they have had some tangible success, in that, the parents are asking that their child spend time with the therapists and one boy that spent time with them today said that he can’t wait to go back to school because the surgery improved his speech dramatically. He dropped out of school in the 6th grade because he could no longer bear the teasing. Now 14 years old, he can not wait to pick up the book bag and head back to a place that previously caused him so much pain.