Did you know that together, cleft palate and cleft lip make up the most common birth defects in the United States, with one out of every 700 newborns affected? To raise awareness about this issue, each July various organizations team up to recognize Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month. As cleft palate can have a significant impact on a child’s speech and communication, Speech Associates of NY is joining in the awareness campaign by dedicating this week’s blog to raising awareness about cleft palate.
What is a cleft? 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 communication effected? Depending on the type of cleft, a child’s speech can be affected in a variety of ways. 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. Pronunciation issues are also common, since many children with cleft palate learned to talk while accommodating their cleft.
How can a speech therapist help? Clefts are typically repaired with surgery while a child is still young, however, speech and voice problems often persist. For example, one common issues is producing “d” or “t” sounds 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.
Was your child born with a cleft lip or palate? Share your story in the comments section below!
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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