Having a child born with an orofacial condition usually comes as a surprise.
You’ll likely have many questions about how it might affect their development, or their overall health.
One such difference is a cleft lip or cleft palate.
These differences can potentially lead to problems with speech or feeding.
But there is help available.
Here at Voz, a Washington DC speech therapy clinic, we can help improve speech or feeding issues in children with cleft lips or palates.
So what exactly is a cleft lip or palate?
How do they develop?
Let’s take a more in depth look at these questions, and how pediatric speech therapy can help.
What Does Having A Cleft Palate Or Cleft Lip Mean?
A cleft lip is a split in the lip that occurs during your child’s development in utero.
It’s on the upper lip, usually down the middle, but it may be off to one side.
The cleft can extend up into the upper gums or upper jaw, and the nose.
If it extends to your child’s palate, it’s called a cleft palate.
Your palate is the roof of your mouth.
It’s has two parts.
Your hard palate is the bony front part of the roof of your mouth.
Push your tongue back as far as it can go along the roof of your mouth, and you’ll feel it start to get soft – that’s your soft palate.
There can be a cleft in the hard palate, or the soft palate, or both.
A cleft in the palate can be on one or both sides of the mouth.
Babies can be born with a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both.
Symptoms Of Cleft Palate & Cleft Lip
It’s often pretty easy to tell from visual signs that a child has a cleft lip or palate.
The gap in the tissue is usually visible to the eye.
Sometimes a cleft in the palate is covered by a mucous membrane; this type of cleft is called a submucous cleft palate.
A submucous cleft palate is hidden by this tissue, and is difficult to see.
In the event that you don’t realize the cleft is there, there are several other signs that there’s an issue.
An infant with a submucous cleft can have trouble suckling, and may even have milk come out of their nose.
These clefts can cause other feeding problems, and speech impairments, in older children.
Cleft palates can also cause dental issues, including missing or extra teeth.
Frequent ear infections are also a possible indicator of a cleft palate.
This is because the connections in your child’s inner ear develop differently.
This can cause the fluid in their ear to be unable to drain, leading to increased infections.
This can lead to hearing loss as well.
If you notice any of these signs in your child, it’s possible they have a hidden cleft.
What Is The Main Cause Of Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip?
A cleft occurs when your baby’s face or palate doesn’t close properly while they’re in the womb.
We don’t know exactly why this happens.
It’s believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors contributes.
If you smoke, drink alcohol, are diabetic, or don’t pursue proper healthcare during pregnancy, this can also cause cleft lip or cleft palate.
A cleft lip or palate can also present as a symptom of a larger genetic disorder, like Down syndrome.
How Serious Is Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip?
If your child has a cleft palate or cleft lip, they may need the help of a number of different specialists.
This may include:
- A pediatrician
- A plastic surgeon
- A dentist
- An orthodontist
- A speech therapist
A cleft lip or palate can vary in severity.
In most cases, your child will require surgery.
This will close their cleft and, if necessary, reconstruct their face.
Your pediatrician will recommend when surgery is best for your child.
In some cases, children with clefts may need additional surgeries as teenagers.
But thanks to modern medicine, children with cleft lip and cleft palate can develop into healthy adults with little evidence of their cleft.
Speech therapy can help as well – more on that later in this article.
Is Cleft Palate And Cleft Lip Related To Autism?
Cleft Lip and cleft palate are not the same thing as autism spectrum disorder.
However, they are related.
Studies have found that children with both a cleft lip and palate were found to have a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
RELATED: Speech Therapy For Autism Near Me
We’re not exactly sure why this is.
It does seem like it’s not related to genetics or environment, though.
It might be related to how the brain develops.
The face and brain of a fetus both develop at around the same time, so issues with one may affect the other.
But if your child has a cleft, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will also be autistic.
Likewise, plenty of autistic children do not have clefts.
How Can Speech Therapy For Cleft Lip & Cleft Palate Help?
Children with a cleft lip or palate may require speech therapy for any number of reasons.
Articulation disorders can cause your child to make more sound errors, or have trouble making specific speech sounds.
Cleft palate and cleft lip can also cause resonance disorders, a type of voice disorder.
In particular, it can cause hypernasality – where your child’s voice sounds overly nasal.
Speech therapy can address these issues.
As with many pediatric speech issues, early intervention speech therapy near me is important.
The sooner your child gets treatment, the less time they have to establish the bad habits that will be difficult to break later on.
Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today
Has your child been diagnosed with a cleft lip or cleft palate?
If so, we’re here to help.
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005
Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.