Erin Horner (2) with her mother Dawn Maitland

From the Belfast Telegraph, April 11, 2008

A Belfast mum opened her heart today about her toddler daughter’s extremely rare syndrome – which means she has never been able to smile.

Dawn Maitland is still waiting to enjoy that treasured first smile from her two-year-old, Erin Horner, who suffers from Moebius Syndrome.

The rare condition has left the Belvoir tot with facial paralysis which means she cannot smile, squint, frown or move her eyes from side-to-side.

Dawn (36) spoke out about her daughter’s case to the Belfast Telegraph in a bid to raise awareness of the little-known syndrome. She believes there are only three known cases in Northern Ireland.

Erin was just three weeks old when she was diagnosed with Moebius Syndrome. Doctors’ concerns were first raised when she was born with a club foot and had problems sucking from a bottle, classic signs of the condition.

“Babies born with this condition can go on to lead relatively normal lives – some of them just hit their milestones a little bit later than normal,” said the former civil servant.

“Erin does have a slight bit of movement in her face so I can tell from her eyes when she is smiling inside.

“Her eyes can’t move from left to right and she can’t squint which makes life difficult for her. She always has to wear a hat and sunglasses when she’s outside on bright days. She can’t protect herself, say, when the wind is blowing dust into her eyes. She can’t squint or blink like the rest of us would to stop things getting into our eyes.

“I can tell when she happy because her face changes slightly and she makes happy little noises – but I’m still waiting for that first smile.”

Entire article here.