Each July, organizations across the country team up to raise public awareness of cleft lip and palate and other craniofacial disorders. This campaign is designed to help promote acceptance and support work that can help prevent these conditions in the future. In support of this campaign, we’re dedicating some of our blogs in the month of July to increase awareness about these disorders: what they are, how they can impact speech and communication, and how a speech-language pathologist can help!
What does “Cleft Palate” mean? A cleft palate occurs when a child is born with an opening in the boney part of the roof of their mouth. The size and location of the cleft can vary from child to child. In some cases, 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. Sometimes, a child may only have a cleft lip, with the roof of their mouth unaffected. Usually surgery is used to fix a cleft palate or lip. However, based on a range of factors, surgery may occur later in childhood, or multiple surgeries may be necessary.
How does a cleft affect speech? The way in which a cleft impacts a child’s speech development depends on the size and location of the cleft, when surgery occurred, and the child’s personal speech patterns. One common issue is nasal 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. Children often have issues pronouncing certain sounds as well. Since they’ve had to work around their cleft while learning to talk, children who have had a cleft will often move their tongue in atypical ways during speech. Because of these issues, a speech-language pathologist is typically a very important part of the recovery team for a child with a cleft palate, both before and after surgery.
Stay tuned: Next week we’ll talk a little bit more about how speech therapy can improve communication for a child born with a cleft, and how you can help! In the meantime, check out the webpage for National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month to learn more!
Want to learn more? If you have any questions or would like to know more about speech-language therapy, give me a call at (212) 308-7725 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have.
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