I'm walking on air tonight, because our QQ had a HUGE breakthrough with speech today. This morning, as I was still half-asleep, I heard her cooing to herself in her room the way she does when she is waking up. Usually, there's a lot of singing, and several "mama"s (when she's ready for us to get up, she'll start saying "mama!' more loudly, and eventually, if we don't respond, she'll knock on the doors that separate our room from hers). But this time, I heard a new sound: I heard her say "pah-pah", very clearly, twice in a row.
The bad news is that she doesn't know "Papa" is a word for father - she only knows Daddy, which she can say in sing language, but can't pronounce.
The good news is that the "p" sound is a huge thing for a child recovering from cleft surgeries. "P" is a plosive consonant, which means that it involves the ability to force air into the front of the mouth, and push it out through the lips. For most of us, this is a natural process. But for a child with a cleft, there are many difficulties involved. For one thing, she still has a significant hole between her palate and her nasal passages, right in the bone of the gumline. This will not be repaired for several years, and in order to trap the air in the front of her mouth, she has to learn to deliberately prevent that air from escaping through her nose. This isn't easy. Also, the ability to trap that air in the front of the mouth involves a specific use of the muscles of the soft palate in the very back of the mouth. These are muscles she never learned to use early on, because they were not connected before she had surgery. Finally, the pursing of the lips is difficult, especially with a child who had such a wide cleft, because the scar tissue connecting the muscles of her upper lip is still very thick and very tight.
The learning of this particular skill will have all sorts of useful ramifications for her. It will help her to say all of the plosive consonants. It will also help her to blow through her lips, and to suck from a straw. I recently noticed (when she tried to take a sip from her daddy's fountain drink) that she can now suck from a straw, although she isn't really used to it, so it only happens randomly. She is trying very hard to learn to blow (dandelions and pinwheels are both great motivations for her) without much luck.
So the P sound is a big, big milestone for the QQ. And she responded accordingly. By afternoon, she was able to repeat the "puh" and "pah" sounds when we asked her to. A couple of hours later, while eating snacks on our afternoon run, she tried to put two words together, and came up with a very clear (if not entirely correct) version of "more apples". It came out like "moah app", but that's pretty darned good for a girl who up until now has only been able to say "mama".
I am so incredibly proud of her, I could just shout. Yippeee!