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Indian J Plast Surg. 2009 Oct;42 Suppl:S137-43. doi: 10.4103/0970-0358.57199.

Communication disorders in individuals with cleft lip and palate: An overview.

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  • 1Department of Speech Language & Hearing Sciences, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai, India.


The need for an interdisciplinary approach in the comprehensive management of individuals with cleft lip and palate is well recognized. This article provides an introduction to communication disorders in individuals with cleft lip and palate for members of cleft care teams. The speech pathologist is involved in identifying those infants who are at risk for communication disorders and also for initiating early intervention to prevent or mitigate communication disorders caused by the cleft. Even with early cleft repair, some children exhibit 'cleft palate speech' characterized by atypical consonant productions, abnormal nasal resonance, abnormal nasal airflow, altered laryngeal voice quality, and nasal or facial grimaces. These manifestations are evaluated to identify those that (a) are developmental, (b) can be corrected through speech therapy alone, and, (c) those that may require both surgery and speech therapy. Speech is evaluated perceptually using several types of stimuli. It is important to identify compensatory and obligatory errors in articulation. When velopharyngeal dysfunction is suspected, the assessment should include at least one direct measure such as nasoendoscopy or videofluoroscopy. This provides information about the adequacy of the velopharyngeal valve for speech production, and is useful for planning further management of velopharyngeal dysfunction. The basic principle of speech therapy in cleft lip and palate is to establish the correct placement of the articulators and appropriate air flow. Appropriate feedback is important during therapy for establishing the correct patterns of speech.

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