Home Academia & Research Spotlight on Special Interest Group 5, Craniofacial and Velopharyngeal Disorders

Spotlight on Special Interest Group 5, Craniofacial and Velopharyngeal Disorders

by Alison Scheer-Cohen
written by and
networking group

Peer support. Engaging exchanges on velopharyngeal surgery. Access to timely resources. SIG 5 offers all that and more.

What would you say to encourage other colleagues to join SIG 5?

Angela Dixon: For much of my career I was the only SLP in my state who specialized in cleft/craniofacial disorders. That was a lot of pressure and can be very isolating. It was difficult to not have an easy team of SLPs to learn from, bounce ideas off, etc. Joining SIG 5 provided that for me. I met a group of SLPs who had passions similar to mine, and SIG 5 allowed me an opportunity to network, learn, grow, and eventually even make friends. Most of those relationships started virtually over email discussions, but developed in person through attending ASHA meetings.

How has your involvement in this SIG improved your understanding of and engagement with the field of craniofacial disorders?

Alison Scheer-Cohen: When I first started to work with people with craniofacial and velopharyngeal disorders, my CF (clinical fellowship) mentor and colleagues on the cleft team were able to teach me the knowledge and skills for clinical practice with this population. As I transitioned to other employment settings, such as the university, I was often the only instructor who had experience in this area. SIG 5 has provided the opportunity to network and engage with other professionals in practice across a variety of issues (such as feeding disorders and quality-of-life outcomes) in the care of people with craniofacial anomalies.

What is one hot topic discussed by your SIG that you feel the rest of your profession should know about?

Dixon: We recently had an extremely interesting exchange related to the timing of speech treatment and velopharyngeal surgery in children with VPD (velopharyngeal dysfunction) and suspected VPI (velopharyngeal insufficiency). Differing opinions were presented but were friendly and professional and often evidence-based. Overall, the discussion encouraged any SLP to refer to a cleft/craniofacial team when VPD is suspected. These speech disorders can be very complicated, and it’s important to get the right diagnosis. Additionally, SLPs should feel empowered to continue to work on cleft palate-related articulation disorders while the VPD is being managed by the medical team, using the cleft/craniofacial SLP as a resource as necessary.

What are the specific tangible benefits (access to Perspectives and the online community group, for example)? The less-tangible benefits?

Scheer-Cohen: One of the tangible benefits of belonging to SIG 5 is access to resources. For example, the SIG 5 Affiliate Focus Page includes SIG Perspectives articles relevant to craniofacial anomalies. Another example is the online community that has valuable information specific to SIG 5, such as recommended literature to read for a specific topic, a handout that can be disseminated to parents during a cleft team visit, or links to continuing-education opportunities, in addition to ASHA updates. A less tangible benefit is the networking opportunities. If a member posts about teaching a course in the area of cleft lip/palate, I can contact him/her personally to discuss course structure or potential class assignments.

What is your favorite recent Perspectives article, and why?

Dixon: I really appreciated the recent series of articles on children with 22q.11.2 deletion syndrome. It was a fresh topic that involved multiple facets, as well as the contributions of multiple disciplines.


Alison R. Scheer-Cohen, PhD, CCC-SLP, is associate professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at California State University San Marcos. She is an affiliate of SIGs 5; 10, Issues in Higher Education; 11, Administration and Supervision; and 19, Speech Science. ascheer@csusm.edu

Angela J. Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, is manager, Pediatric Outpatient Programming, Rehabilitation Services, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. She is an affiliate of SIG 5. adixon2@iuhealth.org

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