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Suffolk Center for Speech


Language Development in Children with Cleft Palate and/or Lip

What is cleft palate/lip?

    • A cleft is a split or divide in the palate and/or lip that happens early on in pregnancy. 
    • A cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth that can occur on the hard palate, soft palate, or both. 
    • A cleft lip can occur on one or both sides of the upper lip, or in the upper jaw and gum. The separation typically extends past the base of the nose. 

How is speech affected? 

    • Before a cleft palate is fixed, there is no separation between the nasal and oral cavities. This means that the child cannot build up air pressure in the mouth because the air is escaping through their nose. Additionally, there is less tissue on the roof of the mouth for the tongue to touch for speech and swallowing. These problems can cause difficulties producing certain sounds. 
    • Some speech and language problems associated with cleft palate/lip include speech sound disorders, nasal speech, delayed speech, and distorted sounds. Additionally, children with clefts are more susceptible to ear infections, which can create potential hearing problems that affect speech and language development. 

What’s the fix? 

    • Surgical repair of the cleft(s).
    • Speech therapy that incorporates articulation, feeding, and language development.

-Samantha W. 


Alansari, R., Bedos, C., & Allison, P. (2014). Living with cleft lip and palate: the treatment journey. The Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 51(2), 222-229.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 2022. Cleft Lip and Palate. [online] Available at: https://www.asha.org/practice-portal/clinical-topics/cleft-lip-and-palate/

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