Smile Train is a non-profit organization that Brian Mullaney and Charles Wang founded in 1999 in New York City, New York, that provides resources and trains medical staff in over ninety countries to give free surgeries to children in need of cleft repair. Clefts are birth defects that affect one in 700 children all over the world. They occur when the roof of the mouth, or palate, the lip, or both have a gap or split, because the tissues and bones did not fuse properly during fetal development. Surgeons typically repair clefts within the first year of life because clefts can often cause problems with eating, speaking, breathing, and hearing. Beyond providing cleft surgeries, Smile Train also supports the needs of children with clefts with services such as speech therapy, dental care, and psychological and nutritional support. Smile Train helps provide better access to cleft surgery and care for thousands of children worldwide, which improves the quality of life for people born with the developmental condition.

In May 2017, Alice Lee, Fiona E. Gibbon, and Kimberley Spivey published “Children’s Attitudes Toward Peers With Unintelligible Speech Associated With Cleft Lip and/or Palate,” hereafter “Children’s Attitudes,” in The Cleft Palate Craniofacial Journal. About one in every 1600 babies in the US is born with both cleft lip and cleft palate, which are birth defects that can also occur independently. Those birth defects occur when the lip or roof of the mouth, also called the palate, do not fully develop during pregnancy. The condition often results in speech difficulties, even after children undergo surgery to repair their cleft palate. “Children’s Attitudes” was one of the first articles investigating how different age groups of children judged their peers with speech difficulties who had undergone a cleft palate repair surgery. The authors found that peers’ attitudes towards speech problems tended to be negative. “Children’s Attitudes” concludes that judgment from peers can negatively affect children with speech difficulties and argues that increased public awareness of speech difficulties may reduce barriers that children with those difficulties face.

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