Psychosocial Services for Children with Craniofacial Conditions and Their Families

When a child is born with a cleft lip and/or palate or any craniofacial condition, the emotional health and well-being of the child and family are just as important as the child’s medical care.

Children with craniofacial conditions may have to cope with:

  • Surgery and other procedures
  • Speech and appearance that are different from their peers
  • Teasing or bullying

Parents and siblings are also affected. They may experience stress or problems coping with the social and medical aspects of the child’s craniofacial condition. Some craniofacial conditions have a risk for developmental or learning disabilities which can make school harder for the child. Because of these risks, the American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association recommends interdisciplinary care (a team approach) for children with craniofacial conditions. This includes access to psychologists and social workers. Psychologists and social workers can help children and their families cope with challenges and provide ways to support their well-being.

Who is on Our Psychosocial Services Team?
  • Our team has psychologists and social workers with special training in cleft and craniofacial conditions. We are here to help you and your child cope with your child’s medical condition.
  • A clinical-medical social worker is a member of the team who focuses on identifying patient and family strengths as well as problems getting wellness services and access to care. They help families get the supports and resources they need.
  • A pediatric psychologist or neuropsychologist is a special kind of mental health provider who is an expert on emotions in children with brief or long-term medical conditions. They provide behavior assessments and intervention services for children, teens, young adults, and their families. They also assist in helping children learning positive coping skills and ways to manage their physical or medical condition.
Why See a Clinical-Medical Social Worker?

You could see a clinical-medical social work as a part of a new patient visit. In addition, they can assist with:

  • Understanding medical information and the care plan
  • School resources including IEPs or 504 plans
  • Referrals for community supports such as early intervention, therapies, or case work/management
  • Health insurance coverage needs, private and state
  • Trauma and crisis intervention including mental health, substance use, and abuse
  • Social Security Disability needs
  • Communication with employers; FMLA and schedule coordination needs
  • Language and cultural organization resources and/or discuss immigration or visa concerns
  • Basic needs such as housing, food, clothing, utilities, transportation
  • Custody or guardianship questions
  • Transitions through the lifespan including adult guardianship, advanced directives, and grief and loss
Why See a Psychologist?

Children with craniofacial conditions and their families may need help with:

  • Coping and adjusting to their medical condition
  • Developing healthy behaviors including brushing their teeth, and eating healthy food
  • Following through with medical recommendations including therapies and procedures
  • Parenting and sibling adjustment issues
  • Problems with teasing, bullying, or unwanted attention from other people (e.g., staring or questions) because of how they look or speak
  • Other social concerns, including withdrawal and social anxiety
  • Appearance or body image and self-concept concerns
  • Mood and behavior concerns (aggression, sadness, hyperactivity)
  • Learning disabilities (common in as many as 30-40 percent of patients with a cleft, especially in reading)
  • Developing healthy relationships with others their own age
  • Understanding medical information
  • Coping with surgery and other procedures
  • Making decisions about surgery when youth get older
When Can You See a Team Psychologist or Clinical-Medical Social Worker as Part of Your Visit?
  • You can request to see a team member at your child’s visit each year or at any other time when you think services may be needed (for example, before surgery).
  • Team psychologists and social workers may sometimes check in with families during their visit each year to ask about any concerns and to provide support and education.
When Can You See a Team Psychologist or Clinical-Medical Social Worker Outside of Your Visit?

Outpatient Therapy

  • You can call and schedule outpatient mental health therapy with a psychologist or clinical social worker through Nationwide Children’s departments of Pediatric Psychology and Neuropsychology at (614) 722- 4700 or Behavioral Health at (614) 355-8080, option 2. A referral is not needed with most insurance plans, but you can also ask your medical provider or child’s primary care doctor to provide a referral through the electronic health system or by fax to (614) 355-8095.
  • Treatment may include individual therapy sessions to help patients adjust to their diagnosis, treatment outcomes, and experiences related to trauma and loss. Families are also key to the work we do with children and teens. Parents or caregivers are included in our services as needed.
  • If your child is having a behavioral health crisis which includes thinking or talking about hurting themselves or anyone else, please take your child to the closest emergency department right away, call 911, or contact the Psychiatric Emergency Evaluation Center at Nationwide Children’s by calling (614) 722-1800.

Neuropsychological Evaluation

A neuropsychological evaluation can give you and your child’s teachers, school, therapists and doctors a better understanding of how your child’s brain processes information, their learning and thinking skills. This information can be used to suggest services or medical treatment that may help your child.

  • Neuropsychological evaluations often complement school evaluations done as part of a child’s IEP. They provide information about cognitive function and learning in children with a history of medical or neurological problems that affect brain function.
  • A referral is needed for a neuropsychological evaluation. Ask your medical provider or child’s doctor to send one through the electronic health record or by fax to (614) 355-8095.