National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month—an observance by individuals and organizations to help make people more aware of and give them information about cleft and craniofacial defects and other conditions that can affect the head and face.  This July, treatment specialists, support organizations, advocacy groups, and affected individuals and families are joining forces to encourage awareness of cleft and craniofacial conditions, and we need your help to spread the word.

Craniofacial defects are conditions present at birth that affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face. Two of the most common craniofacial defects are orofacial clefts, which occur when the lip and mouth do not form properly, and craniosynostosis, which happens when the bones in the baby’s skull fuse too early.  Treatments and services for children with craniofacial defects can vary depending on the severity of the defect; the presence of associated syndromes or other birth defects, or both; as well as the child’s age and other medical or developmental needs. Children with certain craniofacial defects can have a greater risk for physical, learning, developmental, or social challenges, or a mix of these. Craniofacial defects have significant effects on families and the health care system:

  • Each year, about 4,400 infants in the United States are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate and about 2,700 infants are born with a cleft palate alone.
  • About 4 infants per 10,000 live-births in the metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, area are born with craniosynostosis.
  • Recent studies have found that direct medical and health care use and average costs per child were a lot higher for children with orofacial clefts than for children of the same age without these conditions.

It is common for children who are born with a cleft palate to have speech problems at some time in their lives.  In addition to evaluating speech, the speech and language pathologist can help you and your child minimize feeding difficulties, possibly offering guidance on adapted feeding techniques.

For more information, check out these links, which provide additional information and resources for families of children affected by craniofacial defects:

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