Adult treatment for cleft lip and palate proves highly beneficial

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 Adult treatment for cleft lip and
palate proves highly beneficial

Each year, fifteen thousand children are born with cleft lip and/or palate (CL/P) in the world. They undergo surgeries, psychological treatment, and speech therapy, as well as many other forms of support to help them cope with their condition. However, once they turn 18, their support program usually ends, unless they pursue additional surgeries or psychological care on their own.

A recent study aimed to identify the causes of cleft, as well as the best treatments and methods of psychological support for those affected. In the article It Doesn’t All Just Stop at 18': Psychological Adjustment and Support Needs of Adults Born With Cleft Lip and/or Palate, found in the The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal, the authors conducted one-on-one, in-depth interviews with 52 adults born with CL/P. The study, which was performed in the United Kingdom, focused on five main categories of life for the participants: access to services after age 18, additional treatment, social and romantic relationships, higher education and employment, and psychological well-being as an adult.

Many of the interview subjects felt that support for CL/P should not immediately end with adulthood because new issues arise with age. There were many support and outreach opportunities that adults with CL/P felt improved their situation. These include establishing and maintaining friendships and romantic relationships, having children, navigating the workplace, pursuing higher education, and counseling regarding additional medical procedures. Although some participants felt that their condition generally had a negative outcome on their life or certain aspects of their life, most did not feel it was a significant disability.

This research led author Nicola Stock to conclude that most people born with a cleft adjust well to the associated challenges and lead full lives. This is not only good news for parents expecting a baby with a cleft but also reflects the quality of the care that families receive in the UK. More work is needed to better understand the factors which help individuals to adjust, to inform interventions and to optimize outcomes for all.

Although most research on CL/P is focused on children and young adults, these findings suggest that it is beneficial to examine adults to account for how they cope with their condition. This study provided researchers with important insight that will help adults and medical providers see the importance of continuing support for adults, who in turn can be a natural support system for young children.(PR)

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