A cleft palate happens when there is a gap in the palate in the roof of the mouth. Sometimes this can also be associated with a cleft lip, where there is a gap in the top lip.
A cleft palate can cause problems with feeding, breathing and speaking, and also predisposes children to ear infections and glue ear.
Complex surgery is required to correct the cleft palate. Management of cleft palate and cleft lip is usually carried out in specialist centres, and involves health professionals ranging from cleft surgeons, specialist nurses and speech therapists to audiologists, ENT surgeons, and paediatricians.
A cleft palate is obvious to see, but there is also a version called submucous cleft palate, where the gap is hidden under the lining of the mouth. This is difficult to spot. Warning signs include liquid coming back through the nose when the child is drinking, and air escaping through the nose when the child is talking.
The Cleft Lip and Palate Association is a good source of information for affected children and their families.