Did you know that playing with straws in the bathtub is actually speech therapy? Who knew?!? We had Sunshine's post-palate repair/cleft clinic appointment on Monday and I spent some time with the team's speech pathologist. It's still a little too early after the palate repair for speech therapy, but she did give me a few tricks to get Sunshine on her way.
She said the most important thing to work on right now is re-directing her air flow. She has learned to use her nose to blow air for everything (which is why the "m" sound in "mama" is so easy for her). She blows bubbles with her nose (hehe), cools her food off with her nose ... anything you would blow air for with your mouth, she does with her nose. It's totally adorable and a common cleft issue, but now that Sunshine's palate is repaired, we need to correct it!
One of the fun ways she suggested to start working on this skill is by blowing air through a straw in the bathtub to make bubbles in the water. She even suggested holding her nose if necessary to block the air and force it to go through her mouth - that worked like a charm and even Sunshine was trying to hold her nose. Especially when making it a family affair and getting older brother involved, well she was all over it! The speech pathologist said that anything we can do to get her used to the feeling of air going through her mouth is good ... even if it's not perfect at first, this is the first step to making words.
Sunshine is really enjoying this therapy "game" ... although I need to keep reminding her to not bite the straw, she is getting better at blowing air through the straw on her own without my help. And she's actually making bubbles in the water, which just tickles her to pieces! It's only been 2 days so far, so I am excited to see how much progress she's made in the next few weeks. There is still air escaping out of her nose when I'm not holding it closed, but she's already picked up on this game so much, I'm convinced that it won't be long before she's doing it perfectly.
Although Sunshine has a large ASL vocabulary, her verbal vocabulary is almost non-existent. She can make her points known in many situations, but certainly not all. And of course this easily leads to frustration for her (and us!), especially because she can understand everything we say to her and knows what she wants to communicate back. I can't imagine what it must feel like to know what you want to say but not be able to do it. It will be such a wonderful progression to hear her using verbal language in the future!