Ruth Trivelpiece, MEd
Program Coordinator, Center for Craniofacial Care
2014 marked my fifth year providing speech and feeding services for World Pediatric Project in Honduras.
This year, Emily Robertson and Pilar Waters, our team leaders from WPP, and I traveled a day ahead of the surgical team to get a “head start”; we all needed extra time to make sure we could do the best job possible!
I was able to evaluate many patients on Saturday before the team arrived at the Clinica Asturias and complete the thorough speech assessments needed to assist the surgeons with surgical planning. Children who have undergone cleft palate repair require very careful evaluation to determine if the palate is working properly for normal speech production. This can be a bit time consuming, especially when it needs to be done in Spanish! It is critical since the evaluation tells us if a child needs more surgery on the palate, or needs to have a fistula repaired, or has speech problems which need speech therapy and not surgery.
During the following week I had a full schedule of children coming in for speech therapy. Many children were seen in previous years and I was able to continue the therapy and work closely with the families. It was very rewarding to see them bring back their speech notebooks and flash cards. I made sure to save the last 15 minutes of every speech session to give the parents a chance to practice their skills as speech therapists. This year I used video so that I could review their sessions with their children and point out areas they were excelling and techniques that needed extra practice. It was a great success and everyone loved seeing themselves on video!
During the week I evaluated four newborns with cleft lip and palate who were having difficulty with feeding. My heart went out to these families who were struggling to feed their babies. I am happy to report that all four infants were sent home feeding successfully. All parents were able to use the special feeding bottles and were provided with enough bottles and nipples to last them until we return next year.
Back in 2011 I had set a goal to train at least one nurse in how to feed newborns with cleft palate. Last year I trained one of the nurses and left her with a supply of bottles should she need them during the year. This year I was able to train a second nurse who was an excellent learner! In addition, I supplied the Clinica with a Feeding Video produced by the Cleft Palate Foundation in case our nurse needed a “refresher” during the year. It was especially exciting because the video was recently translated into Spanish!
Each year I continue to learn what families need and how I can improve my service to them. I know to bring lots of toys and books to reward these hard working children, and sets of articulation cards in Spanish for families to practice during the year. Parents in Honduras are just like parents here—everyone wants to see their children do their best. I am looking forward to seeing all “my” kids and families next year and meeting new families!