Do Clefts meet the Definition of Special Needs Children?

cleftlipandpalate1People ask me all the time whether cleft lip and/or palate kids can be considered “Children with Special Needs?”

I generally answer “Yes,” but, of course, it depends on the severity of the birth defect and the surgical outcomes. As the diagram suggests, there are degrees of severity. Joaquin Phoenix claims his barely visible cleft is no big deal. Then again, there are cleft persons whose speech never gets past the “nasal” stage.

By the way, Wiki agrees that clefts constitute “Special needs” as the notes below suggest:

“In the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological. For instance, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases 9th edition both give guidelines for clinical diagnosis. Types of special needs vary in severity. People with autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, ADHD, or cystic fibrosis, for example, may be considered to have special needs. However, special needs can also include cleft lips and or palates, port wine birth marks, or missing limbs.

In the United Kingdom, special needs often refers to special needs within an educational context. This is also referred to as special educational needs (SEN). In the United States, 18.5 percent of all children under the age of 18 (over 13.5 million children) had special health care needs as of 2005.”

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