Anticipating the birth of a new baby is usually a very exciting time of life. The expectant couple does many things to prepare for the baby, including setting up a nursery, gathering baby clothes and diapers, and deciding on a name. The parents expect to have a normal baby, with 10 fingers, 10 toes, and an intact face. Usually, they are totally unprepared for the possibility of a different outcome. Unfortunately, not all babies are born with perfect structures. When a child is born with cleft lip, cleft palate, or other craniofacial anomalies, this is a true shock, especially because it involves the face. What was expected to be a very happy and exciting time becomes a very stressful and emotional time for the parents and other family members. It may be impossible for the parents to see past the anomaly to really appreciate their newborn baby. Cleft lip with or without cleft palate is the fourth most common birth defect and the first most common facial birth defect. In fact, about 1 in every 700 children born in the United States each year has a cleft of the lip and/or palate. About half of these children have other associated malformations. Cleft palate is a characteristic of well over 400 recognized syndromes.
Although current medical technology is not advanced enough to prevent the occurrence of these birth defects, most of the speech and functional impairments associated with craniofacial anomalies can be improved or even corrected with the help of a team of professionals. To provide the type of care that these patients require, this group of professionals must be specialists within their fields. For true quality care, they must have a thorough understanding of the current methods of evaluation and treatment of these patients. Considering the incidence of clefts and craniofacial anomalies in the general population, however, all healthcare providers should have at least basic knowledge about the management of these patients and appropriate referrals. In particular, speech-language pathologists must be trained in the basic evaluation and treatment and appropriate referrals of individuals with these conditions, especially considering the fact that they often have a significant effect on speech. Certainly, school-based speech-language pathologists are very likely to have children on their caseloads with a history of cleft, craniofacial anomalies, or resonance disorders. Purpose of This Text The purpose of this text is to inform, educate, and excite students and professionals in speech-language pathology and the medical and dental professions regarding the management of individuals with clefts or craniofacial anomalies. This text is designed to be a textbook for graduate students and a sourcebook for healthcare professionals who provide services in this area. My goal in writing this text was to provide readers with a great deal of information but in a way that is both interesting and easy to read.