“When we met our son for the first time he was nearly three
years old. We had very minimal information on how his unrepaired cleft palate impacted his ability to eat and speak. Most of what we knew was that his lip
had been repaired when he was about 9 months old and his palate remained
We had many questions—
he drool? Does food come through his nose when he eats? What does he use to
drink? How clearly is he able to speak?
How much is he speaking? Being a
speech/language pathologist I was able to read between the lines of his update
reports from the orphanage. This helped us prepare some for his needs given
we’d be travelling two weeks before arriving home.
We took with us a flexi-cut cup, extra handkerchiefs,
and child sized utensils. He insisted on
drinking from a regular open cup. He did not drool and nor did we ever see food
come through his nose. He had learned to
compensate unbelievably well and was very proud to show us that he could even
drink through a straw. He set chopsticks
aside and mastered our western fork and spoon within a meal or two. Although he was not able to clearly
pronounce consonants he had learned to make himself understood using his own
sign language and pantomime when needed. He began imitating English words within the first day we met and began
to understand simple phrases within just a few days.
We chose to use the
for Craniofacial Care at Childrens Hospital of Richmond at VCU given their interactions with the VCU International
Adoption Clinic and they were comfortable treating an older child with an
unrepaired cleft palate.
One of our main
concerns was being sure that our son was emotionally prepared for surgery. Our
first concern was that he adjusts well and be able to trust his new mommy and
daddy to care for him. Our next concern
was that he is very sensitive to pain. Dr. Rhodes and the team were excellent to see our son as a child going
through many changes and not simply as another “case.” They were attentive to his needs and waited
to perform his first surgery when he was emotionally ready. Dr. Rhodes also worked with pain management
for our son. To this day he thinks he was in the hospital for the boo-boo on his hand from the IV!
A year after his surgery he now clearly pronounces a variety
of consonants and speaks in full sentences. He attends speech therapy weekly in addition to swim lessons, preschool,
and play dates. Twice a year we visit the clinic for updates and I am able to rest in
the wonderful care the team provides.
Knowing that his development is being
well monitored I am able to focus on doing my job – being Mommy.”
Jane Davis, MA, CCC-SLP and best of all, Mommy to my precious children