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Winter 2011

March 2011 Volume 8 Issue 1

Cleft Lip and Palate

By Erin Cramm, Shari Eisen, Lesley Ann Stapleton

Last year was the first in which first and second year Speech-Language Pathology (S-LP) students at McGill University had the opportunity to complete a two-day course in the management of Cranial Facial Disorders. Dr. Tim Bressmann, Ph.D, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto's Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Editor of the Canadian Journal of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, developed and conducted the course in March, 2010. Understanding the needs of a variety of populations, including low incidence populations, such as those with cleft palate and other structurally related speech and language disorders, is of great importance for S-LPs. "S-LPs need to understand the whole scope of the field, and a solid understanding of the structures of the vocal tract and their pathologies is an important part of this," Dr. Bressmann states. "S-LPs play an incredibly important role in the rehabilitation of many patients with craniofacial disorders or head and neck cancer, and this is also an area where we can achieve measureable and lasting success for many patients. S-LPs who work with these populations are usually extremely passionate about their work and their clients."

The course had favorable reviews from students. The material was covered in an in-depth and engaging manner, and was accompanied by various case examples, pictures and Dr. Bressmann's personal experiences.  Lisa Massaro, a Speech-Language Pathologist on the multidisciplinary team of the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s Cranio-Maxillofacial Clinic, knows first hand the importance of appropriate education and practice for S-LP students. She receives approximately 40 new referrals every year, and has a crucial role in the evaluation and treatment of these children. “The incidence of cleft lip and palate may be surprising for the general public,” she says. “The majority of patients seen at the Cranio-Maxillofacial Clinic have cleft lip and palate.”

The Hospital has developed a screening tool to identify, around age two, those children who may be at risk for delays in speech or language despite cleft lip and palate repair. The S-LPs take an active part in further evaluating children identified as being at risk and make recommendations for therapy or additional surgical intervention. Children are also seen by pediatricians, plastic surgeons, dentists, otolaryngologists and audiologists – the multidisciplinary team – for various other services.

Each year, the Speech-Language Pathology students of McGill choose a different organization to sponsor as a part of their community service effort. This year, in hopes of supporting a charity closely related to their field, second year community service coordinators Mary-Jane Blais and Kanwar Anit Singh Saini chose Smile Train. This organization provides cleft surgeries to children in poor, developing countries, 95% of whom would never receive surgery without Smile Train’s support. Growing up with a cleft palate can make it nearly impossible for children to eat or speak properly, a major reason why S-LP students find it so important to support an organization that will allow children to grow up without these struggles. “This organization has many good qualities, such as the use of local doctors in the regions in which it operates,” says Anit. “This saves cost, but also fosters communal support.”

Both classes of S-LP students have put tremendous effort into raising money for this world-renowned organization. A bake sale, online fundraising, and other volunteer endeavours have brought in over $2,500 thus far. Along with raising such a substantial amount, the students have promoted awareness of cleft palate and the organization by holding a screening of Smile Train’s award winning documentary ‘Smile Pinki’ at McGill, as well as handing out pamphlets and brochures.

            The Speech-Language Pathology students of McGill continue to spread the word about cleft palate, Smile Train, and the important role the profession plays, and are continuing to raise money for Smile Train. If you would like more information about Smile Train or would like to contribute to the students’ fundraising efforts, please visit their Smile Train fundraising page at: http://www.smiletrain.org/

or visit the community service Facebook page:


For any other questions, e-mail the community service representatives at communityservices [dot] scsd [at] gmail [dot] com.