5-year old craniofacial patient Gabriel E. Valle

Center researchers are following several groups of children with craniofacial anomalies from infancy onward, with the goal of developing effective prevention and early intervention strategies.

Craniofacial anomalies can cause a variety of medical and psychological complications for children. Researchers at the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development are studying ways to improve the lives of these children. Our goal is to develop effective prevention and early intervention strategies with the information gained from ongoing studies.

The term "craniofacial anomalies" refers to a diverse group of congenital disorders including complex genetic syndromes (e.g., Crouzon and Apert syndromes and velocardiofacial syndrome), single-suture craniosynostoses (e.g., synostosis of the sagittal or metopic sutures), hemifacial microsomia, clefts of the lip and/or palate and deformational plagiocephaly. Most children with these disorders experience a wide range of associated medical and neurodevelopmental complications, including:

  • Feeding and growth difficulties
  • Oral-dental problems
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Speech and language impairments
  • Delayed or impaired neurocognitive development
  • Structural and cosmetic surgeries

The psychological and neurobehavioral development of these children can be further compromised by parent and family stress, stigmatizing social responses to a child's appearance and a child's anxiety related to repeated and often painful or uncomfortable medical procedures. Little is known about the specific ways in which these various risk factors and adverse events combine or interact to affect the lives of these children and their families.

Our research is following several groups of these children from infancy onward, with the primary goal of identifying early life factors that predict subsequent developmental outcomes. Such information will eventually be used to develop effective prevention and early intervention strategies.

We are also looking closely at how skull growth and brain development are interconnected, not only among children with craniofacial anomalies, but also in children with other disorders that may be marked by atypical craniofacial development (e.g., autism).