By Suzanne Chandler. Alicia is with her dad. She comes with tears of joy! They traveled 18 kilometers to get her cleft palate repaired. Her father was unsure if they would be able to follow through because they were unable to pay for blood work. She lives in Alaia San Jose Liotto the municipality of Nacahuil. She dropped out of school because she was teased for her voice. She likes to read and watch movies. She will be first on the schedule to get her voice back and “Be happy again.” Her doctor Paladar Hendido referred her to Austin Smiles!

A gift of a smile goes a long way!

Jordan and Dylan are Identical twins.  They drove from Mixco which is about an hour away from Guatemala City.  Mom and Dad read about Austin’s Smiles mission in the newspaper in January. They attended the clinic in February and were scheduled for surgery today.

Next Let me tell you about Austin Smiles Speech Therapy Program here in Guatemala 2018!

Most children that are born with cleft palates will have a speech disorder that impacts their ability to communicate effectively with others.  These children frequently do not receive surgeries as babies and develop poor habits as they are trying to speak with a hole in their mouths. After surgery these poor habits continue until they learn to correctly produce the sounds. Often they are ostracized by their peers and bullied, and have a poor self esteem.  Many indigenous families living in rural parts of Guatemala do not understand why their child was born this way and are embarrassed to present them into community. Others with strong religious beliefs feel these children have been possessed by evil and they are not allowed in church. Often these kids don’t go to school.

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, and connecting patients to Speech Therapy after surgeries have been completed.

On this trip, Julie Loney, CCC/SLP is our speech pathologist.  This is her 3 rd mission trip. She has been practicing in the field of speech therapy for 33 years in various setting including rehabilitation, long term care, and pediatrics in the public schools. She is a co-investigator of the study at Texas State University that is looking at the effectiveness of tele-therapy services in Latin American countries where speech therapy services
is unavailable.  On this trip she has connected with 12 patients for this program. Patients will receive speech therapy services via WhatsApp from Texas State graduate students and their supervisors. Patent education this trip included watching videos demonstrating how to teach their child to say sounds, direct observation of therapy, and flyers with strategies for improving language development.

Look at Julie in action!