You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on

This one is about: Clefting and Mental Retardation

(c) 1997 Wide Smiles
This Document is from WideSmiles Website -
Reprint in whole or in part, with out written permission from Wide Smiles
is prohibited. Email:

Clefting and Mental Retardation

A parent asks:

How often is cleft palate associated with mental retardation and how would this be detected in an infant?


Cleft affects the tissues of the obicularis muscle and the palate. Those tissues do not, in any way, affect developmental function (brain). There are occasions, and they are somewhat rare, when the cleft is a part of a larger condition - a syndrome - that also includes, as a part of the syndrome, mental retardation (not all syndromes also include mental retardation, by the way). When that happens - about 5% of all cleft conditions are syndrome-related, and most of those syndromes do not include mental retardation - the syndrome is usually apparent or suspected at birth.

In the past, with very late palate closure (ie, after the 3rd birthday) children with cleft were very difficult to understand, and deemed "retarded" by the schools. Also, before wide spread use of myringotomy tubes, recurring ear infections could compromise hearing to the extent that the child would fall behind in school. However, tubes, early surgeries, and speech therapy have changed all that. These kids do quite well in keeping up with (and often surpassing) their peers.

Mental retardation, in the absence of an identifiable syndrome, is NOT a real concern when it comes to a child with a cleft lip and/or palate.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me at

Joanne Green
Director, Wide Smiles Inc

Wide Smiles depends on donations to continue to provide this resource for you.
Please help keep us online!

Cleft Links | Wide Smiles | Photo Gallery