Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center Hosts Speech Camp for Kids
Zoo animals, magicians, and ice cream are all part of the summer camp-like speech program for children with cleft and craniofacial differences at the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center. This unique summer speech program is providing approximately 18 children in two age groups with intensive speech therapy while engaging in fun activities in a safe and trusting environment.
The three-week, six-session program was designed by speech pathologists at the Center, Jessica Williams and Kelly Cordero, for children who have severe speech problems due to cleft lip and palate or other craniofacial differences.
“The unique and most important part of this summer program is that every four-hour session includes rigorous one-on-one appointments with a speech pathologist,” says Cordero. “We look at each child’s individual speech goals and tailor activities to really benefit them.”
The two groups, ages 4 to 6 and 7 to 12, meet on different days of the week and consist of approximately 9 patients each. To the children who participate, the program doesn’t feel like therapy.
“I had one of our kiddos tell me that they were so excited for speech camp because other kids have to work on their sounds too,” says Williams. “They said, ‘Sometimes I feel like I am the only kid in my class at school who has to leave to work on my sounds, but here I don’t feel that way.’”
In addition to Williams and Cordero, the program also benefits from a third speech pathologist who is completing a fellowship at Barrow and four medical volunteers who are currently pursing master’s degrees in speech therapy.
“Through interactions in our unique group setting, not only does speech improve, but the self-esteem for these children sky rockets. They no longer feel so alone in what they are going through,” explains Williams.
Craniofacial disorders are often congenital and involve differences of the head and face that can affect physical appearance and important functions, such as eating, speech, and eyesight. Cleft lip and palate is the most common birth defect of the face. It occurs when the gaps in an unborn child’s lips and palate do not close normally. A child with cleft lip and palate typically undergoes six to 10 surgeries, along with speech therapy and psychological counseling, before turning 21.
Part of Barrow Neurological Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center is internationally renowned and has treated people of all ages from throughout the Southwest with simple and complex craniofacial conditions for more than 25 years.