SERVICES FOR CLEFT LIP AND PALATE CHILDREN INVESTIGATED IN UKZN STUDY

SERVICES FOR CLEFT LIP AND PALATE CHILDREN INVESTIGATED IN UKZN STUDY

A study which focused on young children with a cleft lip or palate has earned Ms Marlene Chetty of UKZN’s School of Health Sciences a Masters of Communication Pathology (Speech-Language Pathology) degree.

 

Her study - the first of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal - investigated speech-language therapy services for children with a cleft lip and/or palate from birth to three years within the province’s Health sector.

 

A cleft lip and palate is a gap which occurs when the lip or the roof of the mouth does not completely fuse together during the first trimester of fetal development. The lip and palate develop separately so it is possible for a child to have a cleft lip, a cleft palate or both. Children with an unrepaired cleft palate have a nasal quality to their speech as air escapes through the gap in the roof of the mouth and out the nose. These children may also have difficulty generating enough air pressure to produce certain sounds. After cleft lip repair, most children develop almost normal speech.

 

Services for children with cleft lip and/or palate, including speech-language therapy can begin prenatally and continue into adulthood. At the early intervention stage, these services include, but are not limited to, early surgical intervention, early orthodontic intervention, early audiological intervention as well as early speech-language assessment and therapy.

 

Chetty’s study consisted of a descriptive survey from 19 speech-language therapists from the public health sector and four from the private sector, to obtain an overview of speech-language therapy services for children with cleft lip and/or palate in the KwaZulu-Natal health sector.

 

Results indicated that most speech-language therapists were consulted within a few days of the birth of a child with a cleft lip and/or palate. This finding is consistent with international guidelines. Assessments included taking a case history, an oral peripheral examination, an observational feeding assessment and a speech-language assessment.

 

Audiological assessment and assessment of resonance were mentioned by a minority of participants. Chetty found this concerning as middle ear infection is a common occurrence in cleft palate, and resonance is a major concern. Feeding devices for cleft lip and/or palate children are not always available immediately and hence appear contradictory to the National Rehabilitation Policy which states that instant access to these devices sh
author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za