A new study published in The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal has found that the timing of palatal surgery and size of lexicon, or vocabulary, in children are important factors to consider in determining the most beneficial management of children with cleft palate.
Building on previous studies focusing on developmental criteria, as opposed to chronological age, researchers studied 40 children who were evenly divided into a prelinguistic group (not talking at the time of surgery; less lexically advanced) and a linguistic group (talking at the time of surgery; more lexically advanced).
Their research supports that of others, which shows that children who undergo surgery at an early age have larger consonant inventories and more accurate production of nasals and liquids than do those who undergo surgery later.
What distinguishes this report from others, however, is the combination of this information with the observation that "early age" defined in the context of onset of babbling is what determines better speech and resonance outcomes.
Therefore, not only do the researchers argue that palatal surgery should be performed earlier than 12 months of age and before the onset of words, which is the approach taken by many in the field, but they also suggest that the optimal time of surgery may be even earlier, that is, by 6 months of age and before the onset of babbling.
Cleft lip and palate are the most frequently occurring birth defects in the United States, affecting nearly 7,000 children yearly, or 1 in every 600 newborns.
To read the entire study, visit Timing of Palatal Surgery and Speech Outcome.
For more information, visit American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association.
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