Heather, we started Jackson in speech therapy around 15 months. Right now we're just going through our state's Early Intervention, so our therapist comes to our house once a week. At first they were mainly teaching him sign language, which I had a hard time understanding. But, I think it has helped with his frustration level. The only word that is COMPLETELY understandable is Mama. I can decipher a few other words, but a stranger wouldn't know what he's saying. I don't think it hurts to start early. I'm finding that there doesn't seem to be a lot they can do at this age other than play games and try and get them to imitate sounds. (which I do all of the time anyway) WE go back to cleft clinic on Feb 7th and I'm VERY interested to see what their take is on the whole speech issue.
I got brave and asked our therapist last week if she felt like she was wasting her time with Jackson (for now), and she said that at least when Jackson got old enough to "really" benefit from speech, that he would be used to her coming, and would be more comfortable. I'm not sure what the right thing is. I guess it definitely can't hurt anything!
Sorry for the long answer...I could vent forever about speech! I am SO ready for Jackson to talk! (Then I guess we'll spend the next 18 years trying to get them hush!!