Parent led articulation therapy (P.L.A.T) is a new method of speech therapy currently being trialled by a research project part-funded by CLEFT, the Cleft Lip and Palate Association of Ireland and the Temple Street Foundation (Ireland). CLEFT is delighted that the PLAT study by Drs. Debbie Sell and Triona Sweeney was recognised by the VTCT Foundation and given an award in the national scheme of Social Entrepreneurs in Ireland in 2019. This comes with both funding and training as the project develops into an online resource.

We know that about two thirds of children born with a cleft palate require speech therapy. In the UK, therapy provision in the community is inconsistent and it can be very difficult to get enough or appropriate 'cleft specific' therapy. This project aimed to discover if after training, with support from the cleft team therapist and technology, parents would be able to effectively undertake therapy for their child’s speech problems. Given initial findings, we are hopeful that many more children and their families will benefit.

The study has provided evidence that parents can be trained to carry out speech articulation therapy at home for a child with cleft palate, that this approach is acceptable to parents and that it can be an alternative method of speech therapy service delivery. This could have particular significance for patients in remote areas and in low and middle income countries where children are unable to access speech therapy.

CLEFT is currently raising money for the next stage of research which is to expand the potential use of the ‘Speech at Home’ method. This is a feasibility study into how it can be implemented into clinical practice and will cost £10,000. The money would pay to develop a training module and would cover trailing and evaluating the training programme in three cleft centres, supporting the speech and language therapists in delivering the programmes and evaluating the training courses and website.