Speech in 10-Year-Olds Born With Cleft Lip and Palate: What Do Peers Say?

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The aim of this study was to explore how 10-year-olds describe speech and communicative participation in children born with unilateral cleft lip and palate in their own words, whether they perceive signs of velopharyngeal insufficiency (VPI) and articulation errors of different degrees, and if so, which terminology they use.


Nineteen 10-year-olds participated in three focus group interviews where they listened to 10 to 12 speech samples with different types of cleft speech characteristics assessed by speech and language pathologists (SLPs) and described what they heard. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed with qualitative content analysis.


The analysis resulted in three interlinked categories encompassing different aspects of speech, personality, and social implications: descriptions of speech, thoughts on causes and consequences, and emotional reactions and associations. Each category contains four subcategories exemplified with quotes from the children's statements. More pronounced signs of VPI were perceived but referred to in terms relevant to 10-year-olds. Articulatory difficulties, even minor ones, were noted. Peers reflected on the risk to teasing and bullying and on how children with impaired speech might experience their situation. The SLPs and peers did not agree on minor signs of VPI, but they were unanimous in their analysis of clinically normal and more severely impaired speech.


Articulatory impairments may be more important to treat than minor signs of VPI based on what peers say.

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