Psychologist's Role for the Child

Child Psychology Support:

  • Children with cleft face psychological challenges and coping with childhood stress. 
  • Areas that are considered at-risk for children with cleft include developmental, academic social, and emotional/behavioral functioning.  
  • Given the risks that children with cleft encounter, starting at infancy, the psychologist assesses early developmental functioning in the areas of cognitive, language, and motor skills and refers the family to Early Intervention services for therapy services if necessary.  
  • Having a facial difference such as a cleft might make it hard for a child to adjust to social situations. Other children may ask the child about his/her diagnosis or even tease him/her about appearance and/or speech. If a child is being teased, the psychologist offers coping methods and peer teasing strategies.  
  • Peer teasing strategies that psychologist encourages include: increasing social interactions through extracurricular and after-school activities, preparing children with cleft with an answer to peer's questions related to their cleft lip and palate, providing peer teasing strategies, and recommending ways to boost self-esteem.  
  • Starting at school age, the psychologist continuously monitors academic achievement, since children with cleft are at risk for learning disorders in reading and/or math. She also collaborates with schools to advocate for 504 or IEP plans when appropriate.  
  • If recommended, the psychologist also provides psychological testing to give important feedback about the child's learning, cognitive functioning, mood, and attention. 
  • Because children with craniofacial conditions are at increased risk for mental health issues, the psychologist looks for mood changes and provides recommendations, including individual therapy or more immediate follow-up visits. This is particularly important prior to a surgery, since this is an additional stressor that could create increased depressive or anxiety symptoms.