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

This one is about: Handling Teasing in the Higher Grades


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Handling Teasing in the Higher Grades

by Joanne Green

So, you're in Middle School/High school now, eh? Life is moving along for you. They say that these will be your very most exciting years. They will also be your very hardest, from a completely personal point of view. You're turning into a woman/man now -- your body is changing. Your interests are changing. And you, and everyone around you, are just now learning how to handle all these changes. Some are not handling them well at all. Those will be the jerks that you see. Some people who are acting like jerks now will be all grown up in a couple of years, and they will not be jerks then. They are learning now. Others will simply never learn. They will grow up to be miserable people.

It actually does help to give these people information, as long as it's done in the right way. Do you have a peer counseling program in your school? I suggest that YOU join that program. Your parent could - and should - address that program as well. A presentation can be made to the peer counselors about differences, and how there is a story behind each person, and how that understanding the story helps to minimize the differences. There are so many things that you can do. Here are a couple of exercises:

To show people what it is like to try to talk with a repaired cleft palate, let each student chew a piece of salt water taffy -- but not swallow it. When it is soft, they should use their tongue to push it into the roof of the mouth. When it is there, have them say the pledge of allegiance, and see how hard it is to make all the sounds clearly.

To give them an idea of what it is like to have a facial difference, have them place a piece of blue tape on the face -- across the nose, for instance, or over the chin. They are instructed to give no explanations to anyone for the tape on the face -- just to through the next couple of classes with it on. They will notice that many people will stare. Some will question. Others will tease. After the experiment, the whole class should talk about how it felt. They also need to talk about how it would feel if they could not remove the tape at the end of the day. Ask them to imagine that that piece of tape was a part of them. How would they deal with day-to-day life, handling this difference on their face?

These are things that can be done in high school with the peer counseling program. After awareness exercises, the class can discuss how THEY can help others understand about differences.

You can also talk about samenesses - - what is the same between you and me? Emphasize that even if we do not look the same, or sound the same, we all pretty much feel things the same way. YOUR feelings get hurt the same as MINE do. YOU like the same kinds of things I like. YOU have the same kinds of goals and dreams that I do.

I have found these approaches to work well with students in the middle school/high school age group. But by far, the key would be to tap into the peer counseling program. If your school does not  have one -- please suggest it. They are Wonderful. In the absence of Peer counselors, you (your mom) can present these exercises to your student government, or any other leadership program in your school. (The high school environment supports a trickle-down dynamic. Reach the student leaders, and it reaches all the students.)

These are my suggestions. But my most important suggestion is that you ALWAYS remember that YOU are a valuable and lovable person, and nobody can take that away. There will be some who mature more slowly than others. Some who do not realize that there are ways of making oneself big without pressing down on others. Those are the ones who are not there yet. And some people never get there. But their inadequacy must not be allowed to steal your brilliance. Go in there and SHINE. You have every right!!!!


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