Building Sustainable Speech A “retired” SLP works to build a network of speech mentors in developing countries who treat children with reconstructed cleft palates. In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   February 2016
Building Sustainable Speech
Author Notes
  • Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org
    Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org×
  • © 2016 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Article Information
Special Populations / Genetic & Congenital Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / International & Global / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   February 2016
Building Sustainable Speech
The ASHA Leader, February 2016, Vol. 21, 24-25. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.21022016.24
The ASHA Leader, February 2016, Vol. 21, 24-25. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.21022016.24
Name: Andrea “Andi” Jobe, MS
Title: Co-founder and director, RSF Earthspeak
Hometown: San Alejo, Ecuador
Not long after retiring, speech-language pathologist Andi Jobe sat talking with her husband, physician Richard Jobe, as they looked out over a breathtaking mountain view in Northern California. She asked if he enjoyed retirement. His answer? “I’m bored silly!”
Coincidentally, she felt the same. The SLP and the specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery decided to devote their leisure time to helping children born with cleft palate. The resulting organization—RSF Earthspeak—provides surgery and post-reconstruction speech-language treatment to children.
Jobe’s drive didn’t start with Earthspeak. She accomplished quite a bit before “retiring” and co-founding the nonprofit 13 years ago. Her youngest son was nonverbal, and when she couldn’t get the help for him she wanted, she decided to learn how to do it herself. “Childhood aphasia was rare in those days,” she says, “so it was hard to find a doctor who could finally diagnosis it and recommend treatment.”
Living in Chicago at the time, she enrolled in the speech-language pathology graduate program at Northwestern University. After completing her master’s, Jobe worked at Stanford University’s children’s hospital in the craniofacial anomalies clinic. In 1982 she launched her own school for children with significant language and social issues—The Stanbridge Academy—that she ran for 18 years.
In 1984, Jobe married reconstructive surgeon Richard Jobe. They’d met professionally years earlier at Stanford and had crossed paths again. Working with organizations like Interplast, the couple traveled the world helping children rebuild their palates and communication skills.
After their retirement talk, the couple founded RSF Earthspeak—the RSF stands for reconstructive surgery foundation—in 2003. Continuing the Jobes’ globetrotting ways, the organization has served patients in Honduras, Colombia, Peru, India, Mexico and Ecuador.
Richard died in 2007, but Jobe carries on their passionate work. She hopes to produce a replicable model for training parents, teachers, nurses and other people living in local communities to provide continued speech-language treatment to children, typically ages 4 and up, after reconstructive surgery.
“The challenge was how to break down the phonic system of any language, so you can turn it into a recipe that illiterate parents can potentially follow,” Jobe says. “Plus, I needed a way to break habitual speech patterns for these kids who learned to speak with the cleft palate.”

“The challenge was how to break down the phonic system of any language, so you can turn it into a recipe that illiterate parents can potentially follow.”

The word “babbling” popped into Jobe’s head as she pondered these challenges. She’d heard a presentation years before on something called structured babbling and had read an article about SLPs at New York University treating children from China with repaired cleft palates; the kids struggled to relearn Mandarin but learned English quickly. Those two bits of information helped Jobe form the nucleus of a solution.
“We needed to go back to how infants learn language, which involves babbling,” Jobe says of her “aha” moment. “Looking at neuroplasticity, we know the brain goes through an enormous period of growth after birth. Like a wild tree. Then the brain prunes unused pathways and creates automatic language patterns. Going back to babbling with older kids who learned to speak with a cleft palate may create new neural pathways. We create the child’s native language in what appears to the brain as a foreign language.”
“Corrective Babbling”—the trademarked name of her method—starts clients with early sounds like “oh,” “ah,” “eh” plus “em,” “en,” and “ha.” Once those are mastered, the student combines those sounds—and only those sounds—to form words. Once she masters those basic sounds, the child adds a new group of sounds and forms more words or simple phrases using all learned sounds. This process continues systematically until the child is dismissed from treatment.
In addition to the treatment method, Earthspeak also provides a documented system for training speech mentors. “It can be a parent, brother, aunt—any layperson,” Jobe says. “They come to camps and we teach them about cleft palate, how to be teachers, and how to use the method and workbook to teach their child.”

“We needed to go back to how infants learn language, which involves babbling.”

Mentors can opt for advanced training to serve their communities as clinical trainers who work with the cleft-palate team and help train other mentors. Jobe also trains professionals—such as teachers or nurses—to serve as master trainers within their communities who work with the clinical trainers. “Parents only work 10 minutes a day with their child, never more,” Jobe says. “So every two or three weeks, they meet with clinical trainers to demonstrate progress and see if they need more support.”
Jobe, who recently celebrated her 75th birthday, insists her method and training system aren’t the “end-all, be-all, but it works with parents in developing countries and it can continue without me. I want the system to sustain even if I don’t!”
Perhaps 16 years after retiring, she’s almost ready to take it easy—but probably not.
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February 2016
Volume 21, Issue 2