BACKGROUND : Speech care of cleft lip and/or palate (CLP) and craniofacial deformities (CFD) is
complex and lengthy and requires collaboration amongst different disciplines. Consequently,
it is important to provide academic educational models that include didactics, online learning
and clinical exposure in CLP and CFD treatment, and participation in established cleft palate
multidisciplinary team management.
OBJECTIVES : To obtain information regarding: (1) the perceived adequacy of CLP and CFD
academic education of speech-language therapists (SLTs); (2) the professional services that
SLTs offer to CLP and CFD patients; and (3) the educational needs of SLTs in this field.
METHOD : A 54-item online survey to collect quantitative data was conducted by telephone and
email using a randomised sample of SLTs in different areas of South Africa.
RESULTS : The questionnaire was completed by 123 SLTs, 70% of whom had more than 10 years
of professional experience. Of the respondents, 81% acknowledged their limited clinical
exposure during their academic education. Only 42% of the professionals offer treatment for
CLP and CFD patients. Of the respondents, 96% agreed on the need to improve CLP and CFD
academic education, and the majority recommended certified courses, continued-education
workshops and online resources.
CONCLUSION : The findings indicate that SLTs academic training is perceived to be significantly
limited in the cleft palate and craniofacial fields. Thus, there is a strong need at the
undergraduate level for clinical training and exposure to multidisciplinary management. At
post-graduate level there is a need to establish an educational strategy to meet the needs of
SLTs providing CLP and CFD care. Participants suggested that programmes for continuing
professional education, degree courses and online resources be designed to provide practising clinicians with updated information and guidance in management of CLP and CFD patients.