What’s in a stare?

I recently attended the AGM of CLAPA UK. It was my first visit although CLAPAI are represented most years. There was a packed agenda that was full of interesting topics. Jane Frances from Changing Faces gave the first talk. I cannot give a report on all of Jane’s talk suffice to say it was most enlightening. The following are my own notes on the section of the talk that dealt with staring.

Sometimes a child will tell a parent that other children are ‘staring’ at them. We might be tempted to shrug it off or say that it’s only in the child’s imagination. The reality is that it is probably true. If we think about a stare as being an unasked question then maybe it will help us to cope better. If we accept that children born with cleft can look different then we will realise that children are bound to stare particularly at a first meeting. They are staring because they probably have not seen the condition before. How to cope?

Firstly, validate what your child says. Yes children do stare. Its because they have not seen anybody with your condition before. Next develop some coping mechanisms that your child can use. Having a standard response to the ready can make all the difference. Try in the standard response to answer the unasked question and then engage the person in conversation. Examples of some standard responses are below. The trick is to engage in conversation by asking a question, maybe changing the subject as you go.

It’s called a cleft lip, have you not seen it before?
Its called a cleft lip, I had an operation when I was young, have you ever had an operation?
My nose is weird, its cool to be weird, what’s your weird thing?
I had an operation when I was young but I still play football and everything else. Do you play football? [or ballet etc]
If you are an adult that notices one child staring at another – then don’t be afraid to answer the unasked question.

There was a lot more to what Jane had to say and this short piece will not do the information she presented justice. Changing Faces do not have an organisation in Dublin but the good news is that they will be coming over to give a talk at our March Information Evening.


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