What is a cleft lip and cleft palate?
These are birth defects that occur when a baby’s mouth fails to form properly. A cleft lip occurs when the lips do not completely join. A cleft palate occurs when the tissue at the roof of the mouth does not completely close. Each year, an estimated 2,650 American babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 are born with a cleft lip.
How does a cleft lip or cleft palate affect speech and language?
A cleft lip by itself may only have a mild effect on speech development. However, if a child has both a cleft lip and palate (or even just a cleft palate), it has a dramatic impact on the quality of their voice, feeding and their ability to create sounds correctly.
What treatments are available for a cleft lip or cleft palate?
Often, a cleft lip or palate will need to be surgically repaired. Afterward, the child is monitored by a health care team that includes a speech-language pathologist. Together a treatment plan is constructed for the needs of the patient.
Not all children with a cleft lip or palate will need to have speech therapy. However, in the first six months of life, language and speech development are critical to success in school. Therefore, if your child does need speech therapy after cleft lip or cleft palate surgery, early intervention is vital.
We emphasize a complete team approach to speech therapy for children with a cleft lip or cleft palate. We work not only with parents and children, but also with physicians and other members of the health care team.
If your child has had surgery to correct a cleft lip or palate, please contact us so we can evaluate his or her speech development. We want to be sure your child gets the best possible start in life.