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Benjamin's Story


Benjamin“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 unrepaired.

We had many questions—
Does 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 Center 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.

Benjamin - after surgeryOne 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