Miss Jennie {speech & clefts}

Over the last year, I’ve made several comments about things my youngest says to us. Many of you showed surprise she is talking while others have asked if she is still in speech. I thought I would give you a little update on speech as it relates to cleft lip and palate.

When it comes to cleft lip/palate and surgeries every case is unique. Some go through 20+ surgeries during the first 20 years of life. Others endure less than 5 surgeries. It depends on the cleft and the surgeon. Our daughter has had three surgeries and will continue to have more as she grows and her anatomy changes.

The first two surgeries closed her cleft lip and palate. Her third surgery was necessary for speech.

4.16speech-01Speech has been a long road for our girl and it will continue to be a weekly part of her routine for years, most likely. She has gone to 4 different speech-language pathologists before we found Miss Jennie. We tried going to speech centers and a local university. Both had wonderful therapists, but she wouldn’t talk much at all and it felt like a waste of time and energy. Enter Miss Jennie – our hero. She comes to our house twice a week and meets with our little fireball in the comfort and familiarity of our home.

4.16speech-02A year ago, our girl was only saying 2-4 word sentences. She understood everything we said, but was unable to get all the words in her head out. It caused so much frustration on her part and ours. Imagine knowing what you want to say, but being unable to say it. There were lots of tears and tantrum throwing.

Today, she doesn’t stop talking. Aside from clear pronunciation, she is on the same level as any other nearly-5 year-old. There are no limits to the length of her sentences or struggles in communicating. As I am writing this she is in the other room singing.

4.16speech-03One year – a complete and total transformation. A year ago, I felt defeated and a little hopeless. I was worried about her with her peers because they would often stop playing with her when she couldn’t communicate with them. It was hard to imagine that she would ever be able to communicate on level with her peers.

She still struggles to pronounce a lot of sounds correctly. She meets with Miss Jennie twice a week and has a significant amount of progress left to make. However, she is a talker…a non-stop singing, talking 5-year-old fireball. She keeps Miss Jennie on her toes!

The most significant impact on her speech development has been her speech-language pathologist. Miss Jennie.

4.16speech-04Jennie was exactly what our daughter needed to be able to get all that was going on inside her head out for the rest of us to hear.

As her mom, there was only so far I could go in regards to helping her with speech. We needed (and still need) help. I’m so grateful for Jennie. I’m grateful she pursued her gifts and talents in the realm of speech pathology and she shares those with us.

Jennie puts up with the random chaos of our house and lets me greet her still in my workout clothes and ponytail from the morning. Nearly every time she comes over, there is an extra kid or two running around the yard and often another adult stopping by. She has a front row seat to the messy of our family and she keeps coming back. Twice a week. My daughter calls Jennie her best friend….and is currently anxiously waiting for me to print one of these photos, so she can hang it on her wall.

4.16speech-05Thank you Jennie for loving our girl.

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  • kathleen - This is so beautiful. As a mom and a social worker at a special needs school I love both sides of this story. My son is 18 months old and has several developmental challenges which has led us down the road of early intervention. Many days I feel so completely helpless and defeated, so to hear these kind of success stories gives me new life. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful family with all of us!

  • Maureen - What great progress she has made!! I loved reading this update on her. Our SLP has been a life saver as well. They are so important!

  • Karen - As a young child I had a lisp and spent the first five years of elementary school taking speech classes several times s month… This was about 45 years ago and I still have fond memories of my time spent with Mr. King (along with his student teachers). Speech is a wonderful gift!

  • Elizabeth Rose - Im a speech pathologist and just want to say thank you for sharing this with us!! It is so cool to see the impact that your speech pathologist has made. It is not a field that is very well known, unless you have had personal experience, so super cool to see her featured on your blog. I pray for continued progress!!

  • Angela - Oh man. All the feels, all the tears this morning. Kids are each so special and the teachers who love on them are each just as special.

  • Tasha - My nephew went through the same thing with school mates who couldn’t understand him so didn’t play with him. His problem was needing ubes in his ears being caught late and he missed an important learning time for vowels.

  • Carrie Campbell - Thank you for sharing this. It’s so encouraging!!

  • Johnna LaFaith - What a wonderful read, and what a beautiful little girl. Hugs to all of you.

  • Sarah - Oh goodness, feeling all the feels while reading this. We have a similar story, and finding just the right fit for your kiddo is life changing. You didn’t stop searching until you found just the right somebody to help your girl! Yay!

  • Susan - Ashley, I am so glad you have found the right fit for your sweet girl. We had struggles with speech when my 3 were little and spent many years in therapy. Mrs. Slay helped my oldest find her words and Miss Molly helped my younger two. Speech therapists rock!

  • Tanya - Wow, so heartwarming! Thanks for sharing.

  • Steph - Aahhh that is so sweet!! You’ve made me realize how badly I need to photograph my daughter with her PT and OT. They really are such gifts to our family. Hooray for the Miss Jennies of the world!! And a huge congrats to your little one for her hard work and patience. I’m sure she’ll read these comments one day, so pat yourself on the back girl! You rock!!!

  • Tammy Allen - What a wonderful post today – thanks for sharing!

  • Byron - My sister is a speech pathologist and enjoys the work immensely. I think the rewards of seeing a child progress in their abilities and speech is a joyful thing! She actually calls her job “playing with children” which is, of course, how they learn best. God bless! So happy to read this!

  • Kim B. - What a blessing. Thank you for sharing the impact that she has made on your family with us. What a perfect partnership! I’m so glad you found her. (My words aren’t quite conveying how beautiful this is to me.)

  • Kristin S - What a gift! While I didn’t have a cleft lip or palate, I was in speech therapy as a child. I had a fantastic therapist which made all the difference. If I’m tired I can still slip in to old patterns (at age 45) but I still remember the exercises I did with her.

  • Emily - Thank you for sharing this. My son doesn’t have any structural abnormalities, but he does have an articulation delay and I notice the same thing — without his big brother to translate, his peers just stop playing with him because they don’t understand him. He’s been in speech therapy for a few months (what a battle we had to get those started!) and the change in his demeanor is so obvious. He’s still missing a LOT of his consonants, but he’s working on it and we all feel so much better. I like to think that in a year he’ll have made similar progress. I’m so happy for your progress! And thank you again for sharing. <3

  • Carrie Hageman - Thank you for sharing! My 4.5 year old (born in China) has had a similar journey. She has her first two surgeries under her belt and we wait to see if we need another palette surgery. I too am incredibly grateful for a strong connection with her speech therapist. They are now putting her in larger speech peer group sessions to see how she interacts and is responded to. It was so hard when kids could not understand her and watch her be isolated. So glad your daughter is doing well! It is so beautiful when they “find their voice” if you know what I mean!

  • Rae - Hi Ashley! I’m 15 and am a long-time reader of your wonderfully inspiring blog. For years, I’ve felt that my calling is speech pathology, as I love both kids and science. This post was wonderful and just what I needed to be even more inspired and passionate.
    Miss Jennie is definitely lucky in getting to be Little One’s speech pathologist!

  • Heather - This made me smile. We have had countless people in and out of our home and daily life now for about 8 years due to medical issues my youngest daughter has. They truly become family and if you let your chaotic and messy life hold you back from cherishing those relationships, you miss out on some of the greatest gifts. I’m glad your little one is doing so well!

  • Danielle - This gives me hope. I am a little disillusioned about professional help right now. We don’t do speech therapy but we do use therapists and will most likely need to for a while. Maybe one day we will find one that can help.

  • LeAnne Martin - How wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed this. Way to go, Miss Jennie! Thanks for sharing.

  • Charlotte - Thanks so much for sharing! I almost cried to hear that. Would you mind sharing how Miss Jennie works differently from previous speech therapists, maybe it would help others to find good ones more easily or the therapists themselves get some new ideas…
    Thanks again, I am not Christian but I really enjoy sharing your kind thoughts and adventures from afar. I blog too (but in German and for teachers), so I know how much hard work goes into what you do.

    Charlotte from Germany

  • Libbe - What an inspiring update to read! We are about to embark on our little guy’s 3rd CLCP surgery so it’s encouraging to read about speech success. Would love to hear more details about her 3rd surgery if you’re comfortable.

  • Kara M - I love the part about them being best friends! Tariku’s therapist comes every other week. When I tell him Ms. Kim is coming, he runs to the door and waits for her. His inner circle is mom/dad, grandparents, & Ms. Kim. I love it.

  • Anna - I. Just. Love this.

  • Sarah - Thanks so much for sharing this story. Your posts usually capture happy moments or very natural moments, so I had no idea that the speech issues with your youngest were a daily struggle. My youngest was speech delayed and has made gigantic strides, too. Amazing how much change can happen in a year. Each milestone should be celebrated. This little girl definitely landed with a family who always will go the extra mile to do the right thing. Good job, y’all!

  • Linda - That is wonderful! Good for you for not giving up on the hunt! It could be so discouraging. We are fortunate to have a cleft palate clinic in our city just downtown that serves the wider region. Everyone from the speech therapists, audiologists, dentist and orthodontist and staff are wonderful! Can not say enough about any of them especially her surgeon, the team leaader who has assured me he will not retire before she is done. 6 surgeries done and at least one more to come, 2 sets of braces and lots of monthly monitoring by the team we are blessed with! Worth every visit for our Beautiful Song, Mei Ge.