Effy Redman penned a lovely essay about her experience with Mobius syndrome. In this congenital deformity, the nerves that supply the muscles in the face don’t develop properly, so children have little to no expression. A “social smile” develops by around 6 weeks of age, so very quickly there can be a disconnect from the baby’s feelings, and what others perceive, limiting and changing communication.
Currently we have to wait for children to be big enough to have microsurgery, to transplant a muscle and connect its supplying nerve to one of the functioning muscles used for chewing, to create a smile; and it takes two surgeries, one for each side. Depending on the child’s size, this can be around 5-7 years of age.
We often talk about restoring smiles with cleft lip repair (“Operation Smile”, “Smile Train”) but this is a rarer and more challenging condition to treat, though it is similarly rewarding!