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

This one is about: Americans With Disabilities Act Protects Kids Too

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Peer Relations

In an essay by Renee Barnes, we introduce our parents to the Americans With Disabilities Act. In that essay, Ms Barnes explains that this valuable law protects not only disabled persons, but also persons who are perceived as being disabled, from being discriminated against in our society.

It is easy to see how this act can be helpful in protecting the rights of an adult born with a craniofacial condition. But does it affect our children as well?

Yes, it certainly does. For instance, Don and Mary had contacted a very highly recommended day care program long before Bradly was born. They had even paid out a deposit to ensure that his place would be there for them when Mary returned to work after maternity leave. Plans began to fall apart when Bradly was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Shortly after his birth Don and Mary received a congratulatory baby card, along with a check for their returned deposit and a letter explaining that the day care staff felt inadequate to care for a child who would have the special care needs that Bradly would have.

In another case, five-year-old Samantha, whose craniofacial condition - a large, growing, and darkly-colored hemangioma - was immediately noticeable upon meeting her, was refused admission to the same private school in which her sister and brother had been enrolled for a number of years. No reason was formally given for the refusal. The form letter said that they were "unable to admit [her] at this time", and wished them good luck in their pursuit of the right educational facility for their child.

Nine-year-old Bobby wanted to play little league with his friends, but the league officials were concerned about the multiple surgeries that Bobby had undergone to correct his cleft lip and palate. Finally they agreed to allow him to play, but only if he wore extra face protection. None of the other kids in the league were required to wear the extra protection. Bobby felt "different" and stigmatized every time he had to put the face gear on to come up to bat.

In each of the above cases, the names were changed, but the issues are real. And in each case, the child was discriminated against because of a perceived disability. In each case, and in similar cases, parents can enlist the help of the ADA Helpline by calling 1-800-669-EEOC. After all, our children deserve nothing but the best!

Coming soon, a viewpoint from an adult cleft-born person with a very different impression of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

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