Students Complete Project for Operation Smile
LEXINGTON, Ky. (February 27, 2012) – Every year the members of UK’s National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA), advised by the Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) program, coordinate fundraising campaigns for nonprofits that make an impact in their field of study. This year the students decided that along with raising funds, they would complete a project that would have immediate benefit for the types of patients they will one day be treating.
The group met in late January to make gowns and blankets that the organization Operation Smile will give to patients in recovery following cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries. These patients are primarily third-world citizens who are aged three to eight years. Made from donated t-shirts and fleece purchased by the group, the recovery gowns will be a bright, warm comfort to children who have undergone facial reconstructive surgery. Operation Smile is an international, mobilized force of medical professionals who provide reconstructive surgery for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate.
Since 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 2 million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. Based in the United States, the organization currently has a presence in more than 60 countries.
“Operation Smile does cleft palate and lip surgeries for young children whose families cannot afford to have the surgeries done,” said Lauren Robinson, the student Vice President of UK’s NSSHLA Chapter. “Our profession ties directly into this operation. One day we will work on feeding, speech, and hearing disorders which children with cleft palates and lips deal with.”
A cleft is an opening in the lip, the roof of the mouth or the soft tissue in the back of the mouth. A cleft lip may be accompanied by an opening in the bones of the upper jaw and/or the upper gum. A cleft palate occurs when the two sides of a palate do not join together, resulting in an opening in the roof of the mouth. A cleft lip and palate can occur on one side or both sides. A child can suffer from a cleft lip, a cleft palate or both. Cleft lips and cleft palates are congenital defects that occur early in embryonic development.
“Our NSSHLA undergraduate students did a great job on this project for Operation Smile,” said Dr. Anne Olson, faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and UK’s NSSLHA Advisor. “It was a great opportunity to blend a service project to benefit children receiving cleft lip/palate repair surgeries with their own professional interests. It was also a wonderful outreach global effort as these blankets and t-shirt surgical gowns will be distributed around the world. We’re so grateful to Lauren Robinson for spearheading this effort and for all our junior and senior CSD students who helped make this effort possible.”
According to the organization’s website, a child is born with a cleft every three minutes. This deformity inhibits a child’s ability to eat, speak, socialize and smile, causing some communities to shun or reject them. Impoverished families often cannot afford to give children the surgeries they need to correct the deformities. “In doing projects like this for Operation Smile,” said Robinson, “we can spread awareness of what Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists do while spreading awareness of how difficult communication disorders can be. Knowing and understanding key issues and organizations that promote speech, language, and hearing are key to our future success.”
NSSLHA is a pre-professional membership association for students interested in the study of communication sciences and disorders. The University of Kentucky’s chapter of NSSLHA is composed of students from the CSD program in the College of Health Sciences. The Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers both a pre-professional undergraduate degree in communication disorders and a master’s degree program in speech-language pathology. Speech-language pathologists are health care professionals who evaluate and treat problems related to speech sound production, comprehension and production of language, voice, stuttering, swallowing, orofacial anomalies, and hearing for individuals across the lifespan.
For more information on UK’s College of Health Sciences and the Communication Sciences and Disorders program please visit www.mc.uky.edu/CommDisorders. To learn more about Operation Smile, please visit http://www.operationsmile.org/.