Cleft Lip and Palate: Taking the Team Approach

Care for a child with a cleft lip and palate begins at birth and continues through early adulthood. Although there may be challenges, such as multiple operations or years of speech therapy, most children and families travel this journey with strength and grace and teach us all that resilience is possible in the face of adversity.

Many different specialists are needed to address the surgical, speech, dental, developmental, and psychosocial needs of a child with cleft lip and palate. The concept of “team care” originated decades ago and remains the highest standard of care for children born with cleft lip and palate.

More than simply a group of specially-trained providers, the cleft lip and palate team is a collaborative group of individuals that understand the unique needs of affected children and the important contributions of all specialists involved with each child’s care. The team members understand how each part of a child’s treatment might affect other aspects of care and work together to develop a coordinated, individualized care plan.

Only cleft lip and palate teams recognized by the Commission on Approval of Teams (CAT) of the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association and the Cleft Palate Foundation meet a defined set of parameters for team composition, management, services, communication, cultural competence, and outcomes assessment.

CAT approval provides assurance to families that the team adheres to the highest standards of team care. Teams are expected to stay current on the latest treatments and research findings. Many conduct research at their own hospitals and clinics in order to improve care for children with cleft palate.

Team care allows patients and their families the convenience of seeing multiple providers during a single clinic visit, rather than requiring them to schedule separate appointments for each of these providers. These visits allow specialists to coordinate care and formulate a sound treatment plan for every step of a child’s development, communicating with the family, the child’s pediatrician, and other local care providers.

Finally, teams often provide essential family support through pre-natal or pre-adoption consultation, educational resources, awareness activities, and support/networking opportunities.

All in all, we believe that team care is better for patients and their families.

The Cleft Lip & Palate Center Team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital includes specialists in Plastic Surgery, Genetics, Otolaryngology, Audiology, Dentistry, Orthodontics, Oral Surgery, Psychology, Nursing, Speech-Language Pathology, Nutrition, and Social Work. Because of the specific feeding challenges of infants with cleft palate, the Center also offers the services of our multidisciplinary Cleft Palate Feeding Team.

Of all the team members involved in a child’s care, the most important is the family. To support our families, our team offers numerous family educational and networking opportunities. Experienced family mentors support and guide new families through the challenges they faced themselves after their own children were diagnosed with cleft lip and palate.

From diagnosis to adulthood, the Cleft Lip & Palate Center team at Nationwide Children’s is provides individualized team care to each of our patients and their families. For more information, click here.

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