Sunday, March 19, 2023

Firebuds Episode Features Animated Kid Car with Cleft


Families and friends, grab your remotes and start your engines, the much awaited episode of Disney Channel's "Firebuds"is now available via on-demand. It the last episode of the season, and can be found included on the Disney Channel's on-demand archive or via the Disney Plus app. 

**Stop reading now, if you do not want to see any spoilers.**

The 15-minute segment of the two episode show featured Castor, a purple sedan, and his ambulance friend searching for him at the carnival before a surgery to repair his cleft hood. She tracks him down and gets him to the aptly named Dr. Porsche on time for the surgery. She convinces him that he will never miss another carnival after this one and he will be done with surgeries after this is complete. (If only that were true for all of us with craniofacial conditions.) The episode is filled with colorful characters, all of which are cars or other vehicles. The jaunty song wheels on the ground reminds us to stay calm and balanced during life's tough moments like facing surgery or the "dreaded fear of missing out." If we just do the hard things, we can have more of the great things like cotton candy and endless rides and games. 

Fun facts about the writer of the episode, Jeremy Shipp, include that his son was born with a cleft lip and inspired this "Firebuds" episode titled, "Cleft Hood." Shipp's son did the voice of the character with the cleft hood. The internet and social media has been abuzz about the episode. It is a great way to raise awareness among young children about facial differences. The episode demonstrates that we are just like all other kids, looking for a fun time at the carnival, and are bummed out by doctors and hospitals. 

Watch today and tell us your thoughts about the episode in the comments. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Alt Text Is Accessibility For All

orange background with text that reads alt text is accessibility for all in white and orange text on left, glasses with letters and numbers on right

By Kara Jackman

Accessibility is inclusion. CCA Kids strives to be as inclusive as possible and one of the ways we are working on meeting everyone’s needs is by providing alt-text in our social media and blog posts. Alt text describes images displayed on websites, social media, and other devices.. This allows people who are low vision, or blind to see what is depicted in the photo. There are screen readers, machines, or software and apps, that do just this for our friends in the CCA community with different vision-related issues. This way we can invite more people to view content on our website, social media posts, and other publications, thus widening the circle of acceptance.

screenshot of disability visibility instagram post with image and image description example in caption
Image Credit: @disability_visibility on Instagram

Let’s explore what alt text is. “Alt text (alternative text) describes the appearance or function of an image on a page.” For our purposes of accessibility, it is important that all people receive the information we post on our website, or share on social media. People that are low vision or blind may have a screen reader app or device that will use the alt-text to describe the image and its context on the website or a social media post. A list of screen readers, applications that read scan for text that describes an image, can be found on this website.

Sometimes this text is embedded in the image metadata, or the information about the picture that you do not see that sits behind the webpage you are reviewing.. In other instances, the text may be part of the social media caption so everyone can enjoy what you posted.

Here is an example of what this looks like on social media. In this example, the writer created an “image description” in the caption to make it accessible to all.

On websites, the text will be hidden in the code, as you see in this example for a bag of Doritos. The highlighted portion reads “<img alt> Doritos Tortilla Chips, Nacho Cheese, 1.75-Ounce Large single serve bags (pack of 64).” This text would be picked up by a screen reader and read aloud to the shopper so they know to purchase the correct item. Additionally, if the original image does not load, then the text would appear in place of the Doritos, describing it.

doritos example of alt text as it appears in a website html. doritos on left, html code on right
Image Credit:

In our community, we strive to level the playing field for all. Alt text is just one way we practice the principles of universal design, which is defined as “the design of buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to people, regardless of age, disability or other factors. (Wikipedia).” CCA practices inclusion in so many different ways, including choosing Annual Retreat locations and office spaces with curb cuts, elevators, and accessible hotel rooms, In between Retreats, we connect with one another online. Describing our images, and writing in fonts that are easy to read, provides everyone a seat at our CCA family table.


Monday, February 6, 2023

Mental Health Matters: Recognizing Warning Signs and Strategies to Combat Depression in Parents


By Rebecca Jones MBA, RN, BSN

Mental wellbeing has been a buzz topic especially since the start of the pandemic, but it has been a huge focus of mine since I was pregnant with my second child. My daughter was diagnosed with a bilateral cleft lip and palate when I was 24 weeks pregnant. I felt as if nothing could have prepared me for that moment. At the time of her diagnosis, I had no idea what our lives would look like from that moment on. After she was born, I knew she would be okay, but the fog of postpartum depression fell on me, and thus began my battle over my mental health. Through the years, I’ve learned in many ways (mostly the hard way, if I’m being honest) how to recognize red flags, aka “warning signs” of declining mental health and how to combat it.

Not only does it affect me, but my mental health affects my family and relationships as well. Working on my mental health is essential for my family’s well-being. Both mothers and fathers experience depression, and approximately 15.6 million children—1 in 5—live with a parent who is severely depressed. The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine determined that untreated parental depression could impede children’s health and development. Because of this, parents need to be aware of the signs of depression and how to treat it.

As the pandemic has shed light on the importance of mental health for everyone, here are some things to look out for if you feel as if you’re beginning to struggle and ways to combat those warning signs.

Red Flags

Poor sleep habits 

Appropriate sleep patterns can help the brain process emotional information. Too much sleeping or not getting enough sleep can be warning signs that your mental health is declining. Poor sleep can influence your moods and emotions, creating fatigue and exacerbating symptoms of depression.

Negative self-talk

Feelings of helplessness, guilt, worthlessness, and sadness; all these negative thoughts would linger in my mind until it was as if my own brain was shouting at me saying how much of an awful person I was. The longer these thoughts stick around, the more and more I begin to believe them. Noticing these thoughts is critical when it comes to recognizing your mental health status and when it’s time to take action.

Lack of concentration

I call this “fog brain”, where I am just going through the motions of my day without any emotions. I know if I’m feeling checked out then it’s time for me to start using some strategies to boost my mental health.


Not responding to those texts from your friends asking about scheduling a lunch date? Avoiding eye contact with the store cashier? Cancelling plans in favor of staying home? Stephen Ilardi, PhD, author of books including The Depression Cure and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas says that social isolation can worsen depression and how we feel and amplify the brain’s stress response.

Coping Strategies

Maintain your health

Make sure you eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get enough sleep. Easier said than done when you’re a parent, right? But there is no doubt that these factors are the foundation of a healthy mental state. Make your physical health a priority! You cannot pour from an empty cup!


Not with your children. Okay, maybe with your children, but it must be something YOU enjoy doing too. Painting, puzzles, reading, exercise, you name it. Healthy coping strategies can be therapeutic and productive. The goal is to keep those negative thoughts away while you do something that you enjoy.

Be social

Make time for the people in your life who matter most to you! Whether it’s a lunch date, a night out, or a FaceTime after the kids are in bed, be sure to interact with a friend or loved one you don’t get to see every day. I like to keep up with this every few days, so I don’t feel isolated. Social interaction can help combat feelings of depression.

Let out your emotions

Then bring it back in. Have you ever noticed how you feel after a good cry? Let your body release how you’re feeling but give yourself a time limit. For example, “Okay, I’m really upset that my daughter has to have surgery again. I’ll let myself have a good cry for 5 minutes, and then I’ll go for a walk.” Tension in the body builds up and can snap at the wrong moments. This can create conflict and stress in your home and relationships. Being able to express those emotions in a safe and controlled way can help release that tension without creating consequences.

It's okay to ask for help

When the strategies don’t seem to work, looking for outside help can make a huge difference. Therapists and psychiatrists are a great resource who can help with strategies and medications, if needed, to help you be your best self.

Resources for help

Psychology Today is a great tool that can help you find therapists, doctors, and support groups. They also provide several articles for different mental health subjects, relationships, and personal growth. 

Your insurance website can help you find providers in your area that are in network.

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is toll-free and available 24/7 for anyone suffering from a mental health crisis.

Call 911 or go to the closest Emergency Room if you’re having thoughts of suicide or harming others

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Disability Reads: Understanding Autism Through "The Reason I Jump"

By Kara Jackman

For the last few years, I've been striving to learn more about autism. I read blogs, books, spoke with friends and family, medical professionals, and educators about autism and Aspergers syndrome. Page after page I tried to get a sense of what it was like to experience the world in the way people with autism do. I wanted to learn more about how I could be a better employer, family member, friend, and advocate. This year I finally found the book I was looking for in the young adult section of my local library. It was recommended to me by a friend in the disability community. The book is titled, "The Reason I Jump" by Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell.

Everyone should read this book that shares in question and answer form, the whys and hows of what it is like to be on the autism spectrum. I walked away understanding that the majority of what people with autism experience is worry about how their typically-presenting family and friends feelings. Question after question was answered by Naoki with some form of my-body-and-mind-are-calling-me-to-do-this-thing-and-all-the-while-I am-concerned-about-how-others-around-me-feel. This quotation from the book is exactly what I am talking about,

“On our own we simply don't know how to get things done the same way you do things. But, like everyone else, we want to do the best we possibly can. When we sense you've given up on us, it makes us feel miserable. So please keep helping us, through to the end.”

Read more about this book and explore other quotations by Naoki on Goodreads.

Mixed in throughout this book are stories that Naoki writes. They read something like fables, or perhaps this reader was looking for a lesson in all of his words. The book takes a thoughtful approach to tough topics by allowing the autistic person to imagine the questions people may have and answering them himself. This is true empowerment. Claiming the questions for themselves before they turn into a hurtful interrogation. Claiming the self is the most powerful thing a person can do. Naoki does this and speaks for thousands of people with autism and folks on the spectrum. Why does he jump? To feel more connected to his body, the world and his sacred existence. Naoki writes, "When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too—my bounding legs and my clapping hands—and that makes me feel so, so good.”

His advice for people supporting those on the spectrum includes these sage words. “But I ask you, those of you who are with us all day, not to stress yourselves out because of us. When you do this, it feels as if you're denying any value at all that our lives may have--and that saps the spirit we need to soldier on. The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people. We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people's unhappiness, that's plain unbearable.”

While this paragraph reads as sad, it does give us information so we can change our actions and not cause more harm or hardship to those we love on the spectrum. If you would like to read more about autism, aspergers, and other sensory integration experiences, check out books by Temple Grandin including "The Way I See It" and "The Autistic Brain," Jodi Picoult's, "House Rules," and my next romance read, The Kiss Quotient" by Helen Hoang.

I also found this extraordinarily great list of posted on Twitter by poet Torrin A. Greathouse. 

Honoring the Life and Legacy of Lentil

Editor's Note: Our hearts are heavy after hearing about the passing of Lentil. To keep his legacy alive, CCA will name an Annual Family Retreat and Educational Symposium scholarship for Lentil, so that more children and families can experience the welcoming environment of retreat. We hold Lindsay and Lentil's closest family members in our hearts as we celebrate the life of ambassadog, Lentil Bean. Please enjoy rereading this piece written in 2019 for CCA's 30 year anniversary of "empowering and giving hope to individuals and families affected by facial differences."  

"In my experience, CCAKids represents Community, Compassion and Acceptance.   We aren’t a group of strangers, we are a Family. Through Lentil, I was blessed to find my way to CCAKIDS. Animals love based on hearts not our differences on the outside. They create a non-judgmental bridge between humans and the way life should be lived. Our children can relate to animals because they don't stare, they don't ask questions; they just enjoy the hug.  Little by little, all of us that have experienced this beauty will carry it forward to help change our world one day."

Lindsay K. Condefer
Street Tails Animal Rescue
My Name is Lentil
Mount Laurel Animal Hospital

Lindsay Condefer is an amazing woman no doubt. Before she began her "Chews Kind" activities, she was already active in her community and rescuing animals with Street Tails Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania. Then, along came an adorable French bulldog, Lentil, born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Lentil was one in a litter of five pups all born with facial differences. He was the only one to survive.  Lindsay met Lentil in 2013, fell in love, and became his caretaker. The adorable dog and his story - including the intense efforts Lindsay put in to help him thrive - took the media by storm, with thousands of followers joining little Lentil's journey. His viral success offered Lentil and Lindsay a platform. So with the world's attention, they began raising awareness via their blog, My Name is Lentil, and social media nurturing an enormous Facebook and Instagram following with fun photos, uplifting moments, and eventually genuine, authentic connections with families and children across the country. 

One of the most amazing gifts Lindsay has given the craniofacial community is the gift of fundraising. She's raised over $30,000 for CCA Families to attend the Annual Retreat and continues to give back annually. This loyalty and commitment is something we can never repay, but a love for which we are eternally grateful. We selected Lindsay as one of our 30 Stories because she truly changed the trajectory of our organization. By using her visibility to share the spotlight, CCA has been able to grow into new communities and bring along more supporters than we ever could have without them. Lindsay is truly serving to widen the circle of acceptance for our kids. 

Lindsay continues to visit children with facial differences in the Philadelphia area and across the country with organizations like CCA. She has added more "ambassadogs" to her crew, too, with Sprout coming to the CCA Retreat in 2018 (see photo above). When Lindsay is not traveling with Lentil to visit kids, she saves animals as Founder and President of Street Tails Animal Rescue in Philadelphia, PA, and is raising her adorable daughter, Charlie.