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

This one is about: Teasing and Reality


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Teasing and Reality

(In answer to a question by a mother whose daughter is being teased in her middle school.)

My name is Shane, I'm 26 and have a Bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. I can definitely relate to being teased a lot, and being depressed or unsure of one's self. I grew up near Washington DC in a not so nice neighborhood, not that that matters a lot - kids can be cruel anywhere.

Be it here or anywhere, I've realized that kids (and even adults) often feel superior if they can belittle others. For a time, as an adult, I was a counselor working with emotionally disturbed youths and was trained in a branch of psychology called 'Reality Therapy'. In it it states that everyone has 4 basic pysch needs 1) Acceptance/belonging 2) Power/control 3) Fun 4) Freedom and that all needs must be met in some form or another. Obviously in different people, the needs/requirements exists in different proportions. To some power or acceptance is the most important thing, to others freedom becomes more important.

It also teaches that all behavior is an attempt to satisfy one of those needs, and that all behavior is chosen.

Sadly, in our culture, acceptance is often equated with physical and superficial qualities. Teenagers are desperately trying to 'learn' new behaviors to 'fit in'... to meet their need to be accepted. Again, sadly, many kids learn that by attacking others, belittling them, secures their own acceptance among their peers. Talking with other professionals
who have worked with cleft children, and other cleft adults on here, I think that is the most frustrating/hard thing about having a cleft - lack of anonymity. For some that means we 'learn' behaviors of becoming more self-reliant (Like me for example), others over-compensate and make up in other ways to become more social. Regardless of how one handles it, I think it's safe to say that we (cleft adults/children - if I'm wrong please let me know all) are always aware of 'being different'... it's a hard thing to forget.

Now I don't know if any of that helps...Understanding people's motivations doesn't change them ... doesn't make it any easier to bear the teasing. But hopefully through here she can find some acceptance. In many ways I have been thankful for my cleft, it has taught me a lot about myself and others. Something that I have learned through here, from other peoples example, is that to make sure the other needs are met if you know one is lacking. Those needs being control, fun, and freedom. Make sure your daughter is comfortable and has a saying in the doctors choices, that she doesn't feel trapped by timetables or physical infirmary after surgeries, etc, and that she does find someway to have fun. Like I said, I'm not sure if any of that helped. Sometimes no matter what anyone else says, she will just have to find the strength in her. For all her struggles, I'm sure she will come out a stronger and better person. I mean really - does she want to be a brainless, preppy cheerleader who does not have any original thoughts?????


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