“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” –Wonder, R.J. Palacio

Did you know that July is National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month?

When reading about individuals with cleft lip & palate and craniofacial conditions I was able to find some very inspiring stories of individuals who have been affected, so here are some interesting facts and information surrounding the topic. 

Craniofacial disorders describe malformations of the face and skull that may develop from a birth defect, disease or trauma. Nearly 600,000 individuals in the U.S. have been diagnosed with a craniofacial condition. I often hear the terms “cleft palate” and “cleft lip” used to describe the same issue, and while they are similar, they are not the exact same. A cleft palate refers to a birth abnormality that affects the inner, underside of the mouth. This means that during gestation, the roof of the mouth didn’t close together properly. Cleft palates occur in about one in every 2,000 newborns and appears to be more prevalent in boys than girls, according to Children’s National. A cleft lip refers to a birth abnormality that affects the outer portion of the mouth. Babies may have both a cleft lip & palate or just one without the other. 

Modern technology has become so helpful in identifying individuals with cleft and craniofacial conditions as early as during pregnancy. Research has been conducted to help surgeons perform reconstructive surgeries more effectively, and those surgeries can begin as early as 3-4 months old. However, while the advance in technology has been very helpful in assisting individuals with these types of conditions, this does not mean that families’ hardships are any easier. The reconstructive surgeries typically include a long journey of different procedures, which can be financially, emotionally, and physically draining for all involved. Many newborns with cleft lip/palate conditions have difficulty with feeding, hearing and can have speech language disorders in some instances. Additionally, individuals with other craniofacial conditions may be teased or bullied by their peers, and may find difficulty in social situations.  

You can raise awareness in a variety of ways. Conduct your own research. Share stories of loved ones that you know with cleft or craniofacial conditions, or read about individuals who have these experiences and share their stories. If you feel in your heart to donate, you can donate to the non-profit organization Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare or other non-profit organizations. Be supportive. Be compassionate. Be kind. 

About the Author

Chelsea Woods has a Master’s degree in special education and is an Educational Diagnostician. Her passion is children, particularly children with special needs. Chelsea has been married to her husband Dylan for 6 years, and they have two girls, Kamdyn, five, and Emersyn, one. She enjoys time with her church family, working in their garden, and taking vacations and making memories as a family.