Orofacial clefts and the impact on academics

May 6, 2015
The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal has conducted a study on children with orofacial clefts and the effects and challenges they have on school.

The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journalhas shown one of the most common birth defects in the United States to be cleft lips(with 1 in 940 born with this defect) or cleft palates (with 1 in 1574 born with this defect), referred to as orofacial clefts (OFCs). Children with OFCs have faced challenges in school such as cognition, reading, language, hearing, speech, and developmental and behavioral problems, which leads to poor academic achievement compared to peers.

The article “Academic Outcomes of Children With Isolated Orofacial Clefts Compared With Children Without a Major Birth Defect,” in The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal discusses a comparative study among children 5 to 12 years of age with and without OFCs born between 1996 and 2002. Parents were surveyed and academic data was collected including letter grades, grade retention, and school days missed. Overall, 1008 surveys were mailed, 289 were completed with 150 being from parents of a child having an OFC and 139 without.

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The surveys concluded that children with an OFC had more developmental disabilities, hearing problems, speech problems, and ear infections. They were also more likely to receive lower grades and miss more school days than children without a major birth defect. However, there was no difference in children being held back a grade between the two groups. The findings in this study were closely in line with two additional studies, one of which comes out of the United Kingdom. Its authors believe children with OFCs were benefitted by special needs services, helping them navigate their academic hardships.

In this study, the authors also felt “parents, clinicians, and teachers should be aware of potential academic differences in children with an isolated orofacial cleft so that these children can be monitored and provided necessary services as early as possible if difficulties do arise.” They also believed that the small sample size was a limitation to this study and that a broader range of children should be sampled. A follow-up study looking at high school children would also be beneficial so as to compare the progression of how the OFC group has been impacted over time academically.

Full text of the article, “Academic Outcomes of Children With Isolated Orofacial Clefts Compared With Children Without a Major Birth Defect,” The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal, Vol. 52, No. 3, 2015, is now available.