Samantha is an absolute chatterbox. She is a bubbly and energetic two-year-old, who loves meeting new people. When members of the Transforming Faces’ team visited her family in early April, we noticed this right away. She was keen to share her speech therapy homework that she enjoys doing with her mother, Jimena, and was proudly showing off her freshly-picked flower from the garden.
While five months pregnant with Samantha, Jimena learned during a regular ultrasound appointment that her soon-arriving baby has cleft lip and palate.
Jimena, who sells porcelain that she handmakes; knew little of cleft before this traumatic moment. Nicolás, Samantha’s father; who works as a university janitor in the evenings, was more familiar with cleft. When receiving this news, he began to worry. He recalled memories of a child he knew during his childhood who had cleft lip and palate. This child was bullied and excluded – and Nicolás feared this would be his daughter’s future.
Jimena was unsure of what to expect – she had hoped that the problem would resolve itself through the remainder of her pregnancy. She even faced critique from her family, with an aunt suggesting she did not eat enough during pregnancy.
Living in a rural community, Samantha was delivered in the nearby city at a small hospital. The hospital was not equipped for children born with a cleft. Jimena didn’t have instruction on proper feeding techniques and the hospital lacked the feeding tools necessary. She would have to undergo tube feeding, a trying experience for the new parents.
Persevering through these times, it wasn’t long before the family was referred to Transforming Faces’ partner, Asociación LPH, where they were able to get the support they needed, such as proper instruction to feed Samantha – helping her to reach a healthy weight prior to surgery.
LPH provides workshops on early stimulation in speech therapy, for families with children up to two years old. There, Jimena learned the importance of working with her daughter at home even before she was able to speak. Now, Samantha works on her speech in person and through telehealth, helping her to improve her clarity.
Reflecting on the support she has received so far, Jimena shares “I’ve been talking to Samantha like she is an adult. We have done plenty of exercises and reading. I believe because of the early stimulation Sam received, she is able to communicate so well today”. Thanks to the early support and the continued involvement of her family, Samantha is confident in being the bubbly two-year-old she is.