Our Speech Program


The Need

Most children that are born with cleft lip and palate will develop a speech disorder that impacts their ability to communicate effectively. Although some of these issues are alleviated with surgery, some children in Latin America do not receive surgeries as babies and develop poor speech habits as they learn to talk. After surgery, these habits continue until they learn to correctly produce the sounds.

Our Speech Therapy Program

As part of the continuum of care, Austin Smiles provides speech Therapy services to our patients. These services include evaluation, therapy, parent education, and training. We also work to connect our patients to Speech Therapy after surgeries have been completed.

Austin Smiles volunteers have been working on a study at Texas State University that is looking at the effectiveness of teletherapy services in Latin American countries where speech therapy services are unavailable. Patients will receive speech therapy services via WhatsApp from Texas State graduate students and their supervisors. Patient education on trips includes watching videos demonstrating how to teach their child to say sounds, direct observation of therapy, and flyers with strategies for improving language development.


Instituto Salvadoreño Rehabilitación Integral (ISRI)

Austin Smiles volunteers and SLP’s, Maria Resendiz (Texas State University) and Julie Loney (Hays CISD), have worked to complete speech therapy training with therapists from Instituto Salvadoreño Rehabilitación Integral (ISRI). ISRI, a local El Salvador speech therapist company, works to assist Austin Smiles on mission trips so they can connect with the patients after Austin Smiles leaves El Salvador.

Dr. Maria Resendiz and Dr. Diana Gonzales, associate professors in the Communication Disorders Department at Texas State University were recently awarded two internal grants: Service Learning Excellence Research Grant and Wilson Latin American Fellowship Grant to continue the Train the Trainers portion of project PLACTICAR (Providing Language Articulation Communication Therapy In Countries and Regions). Texas State University, Austin Smiles, and ISRI look forward to collaborating to bring speech therapy to the children of El Salvador who have received cleft palate/lip operations.

Partnering with UT

The University of Texas at Austin established the Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Speech-Language Pathology in 1997. This endowment allows graduate students in speech-language pathology at UT’s College of Communication to join Austin Smiles on medical mission trips. Selected UT students work with speech pathologists to design appropriate curriculum and exercises for children with cleft lip/palate and work closely with the family to train them in assisting the child.

Do you want to get involved with our Speech programming?


1 in 700 children are born with a cleft lip or palate

$250 covers the cost of one life-changing surgery

150 volunteers annually will change a child’s life forever


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One in 700 children are born with a cleft lip/palate


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