Each September, groups that support children and families with cleft palate celebrate National Craniofacial Acceptance Month to help raise awareness of this condition and promote public acceptance. In support of this national observation, Speech Associates of New York will be dedicating the next two weeks to explaining what cleft palate is, how it affects a child’s speech and language development, and what you can do to help.
What is Cleft Palate? A cleft palate is a type of facial birth defect in which a child is born with an opening in the boney part of the roof of their mouth. Clefts can vary widely from child to child. In some children, the cleft may only be a small opening in the roof of the mouth, while in others, it may go all the way forward, creating a cleft in the upper lip or even the base of the nostrils. In some cases, a child may only have a cleft lip, with the roof of their mouth unaffected.
How Is a Cleft Palate Treated? A cleft is usually identified immediately after birth. Surgery is almost always used to fix a cleft palate or lip, however, how quickly surgery can be performed varies from child to child, depending on the type and extent of the cleft, as well as the child’s overall health. Often multiple surgeries are needed to completely repair the cleft.
What Effect Does a Cleft Have on a Child? A child with a cleft palate will often have some difficulty with speech. Since there is an opening between the mouth and the nasal cavity, air will often flow out the nose during speech, creating a voice with a nasal quality. Even after surgery, children often have difficulty with pronunciation. Since they’ve had to accommodate their cleft while learning to talk, children who have had a cleft will often move their tongue in atypical ways during speech. For example, a “d” or “t” sound may be produced in the back of the throat as a “g” or “k” sound, avoiding the roof of the mouth. A speech-language pathologist can help a child relearn these sounds, and improve articulation in speech. Children born with a cleft will often continue to work with a speech therapist over time as they undergo different surgeries and adapt to their changing speech.
For information on our New York based Speech-Language Pathology services, please call Speech Associates of New York today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at http://www.speechassociatesofny.com and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help!
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