It was lovely to catch up with Rehan whose cleft lip was corrected by the charity in 2015. He returned to have his cleft palate repaired this time. He is now three years old and his main difficulty is with his speech. He can produce sounds but the only word his Mum can decipher is Mama. The person who does seem to understand him is his elder sister who communicates for him.

Rehan lives with five other members of his family, 30 km from Nagpur. Like so many people from the area his Father is a farmer; he owns a small plot of land and grows wheat and rice, which brings in a meagre living but not enough to pay for surgery for his son. His Mother remembers feeling sad and anxious when he was born and then pleased to learn about the Northern Cleft Foundation from a local doctor.

She remains worried about Rehan, because, although he is a happy boy with many friends, he doesn’t go to school because of his inability to be understood. Her hope is that the operation and the speech therapy advice given to the family will help him. They were told how important it is to encourage Rehan to use sounds and for his parents, and especially his sister, to have verbal interaction with him.

One of the most significant issues that result from a cleft palate is difficulty with articulating speech. This is because sounds such as T, D, C, G, S and Sh involve the tongue touching the palate and if this is not possible because of the ‘gap’, an abnormal way of producing speech from the very back of the palate (typically not affected by the cleft) occurs, which can be difficult to understand.

Children usually start to babble before they are twelve months old and these early babble patterns tend to transfer into later speech, so cleft palate correction is optimum around this time. Rehan is a little older than this now but hopefully his operation and support from his family will really help. We look forward to learning how he is doing next year.