Speech pathology and cleft lip.

We’ve all been there. Embarrassment over mispronunciations, esp when we travel or are a “stranger in a strange land.” Someone may endearingly call you “sweaty” when they mean “sweety.”

Sometimes we’re teased or laughed at, like the Nepalese guy who learns to call a wallet a ”purse” and chap-stick “lipstick.” He doesn’t understand why the uproar in America when he asks, “Where’s my purse? Where’s my lipstick?”

Speech Pathology Week.

Well, you can imagine the plight of cleft lip and palate kids  who have nonstop trouble communicating. Such kids often retreat into silence and adults having to relearn speech skills—because, say, they’ve suffered a stroke— may give up.

Woman showing prompt to cleft lip boy in therapy session.

Cleft lip & palate therapy.

Because it happens to be Speech Pathology Week in Australia, I’ve become aware of some of the efforts to build awareness of the importance of speech language pathology (the American term).Speech pathologists in Bundburg (on the east coast, north of Brisbane) are aiming to raise awareness of communication disorders and how they impact people’s lives.


According to News Mail, local speech pathologists met recently to highlight the importance of early intervention in children and assist with speech and communication requirements for adults – some who may have an acquired brain injury such as a stroke. Speech pathologist Sarah Elphinstone claims that when an undiagnosed speech impediment occurs, it greatly impacts an individual  later in life.

“[Research shows] when the children don’t receive early intervention in speech and language it will influence the outcome of literacy,” Mrs Elphinstone said.

“Sadly many people with a communication disorder suffer in silence.

“Most of us take communication for granted.”

Speech pathologist Jenny White says there’s been a great change in the way people look at speech delays in Bundaburg, and as a result  the city has  changed from having just four speech pathologists to more than 16 now. 

Ms. White says that it’s likely everyone knows someone who’s had some form of communication issue.

“Communication for life is vital,” she says. “We work with people to maximize their ability to communicate in a way that best meets their needs and abilities.”

Port Lincoln

According to a Port Lincoln Times story, speech pathology students Jasmine Crisanti and Majella Mrdjen are also trying to increase people’s understanding of communication disorders. They’re studying in Port Lincoln, a southern Aussie town near Brisbane.

Ms. Crisanti states more than 1.1 million Australians out of 22 million have difficulty communicating and many of them suffer in silence. 

“Most of us take communication for granted,” according to Ms. Crisanti.

Cleft lip and palate kids usually need therapy.

 It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people will experience communication difficulties at some point in their lives. This can range from mild to very severe and can impact on the way they participate in family life, the community, education and the workplace.

Cleft lip & palate boy using tube from machine to detect nasality.

Using tube to detect nasality.

Three in every 1000 newborns have hearing loss, which without intervention can affect their speech, language and literacy. Twenty percent of 4-year-olds have difficulty understanding or using language. And amazingly, about 13,000 Australians use electronic communication devices, like “talking” keyboards, to get their message across.

But speech disorders don’t just affect the young. At least 30 per cent of people post-stroke suffer loss of language, with 85 per cent of those with Parkinson’s disease having voice, speech and/or swallowing difficulties.

Miss Mrdjen says, “Speech pathologists are specialists in all forms of communication. They work with people who have difficulty communicating because of developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning disability, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and hearing loss, as well as other problems that can affect speech, language and communication.”



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