This 'Stranger Things' star is one in a million. So is his genetic disorder.

The Netflix retro sci-fi hit "Stranger Things" brought a lot of wonderful things into our lives — including the phrase "cleidocranial dysplasia."

When I watched the show, I just assumed that Dustin's oft-repeated comeback about his "cleidocranial dysplasia" was a just fancy scientific way of saying "late tooth development" or something.

All GIFs from "Stranger Things."


But turns out, it's actually an incredibly rare congenital disorder that affects one in a million people. Symptoms can include underdeveloped bones and joints, absent collarbones, shortened limbs, skull deformities, and, yes, dental abnormalities like adult teeth that fail to come in when they're supposed to.

Which is really all just a fancy scientific way of saying that Dustin is awesome.

That might seem like a deep-cut from a totally random medical text. But there's a good reason it was mentioned in the show.

Gaten Matarazzo, who played Dustin on the show, has cleidocranial dysplasia in real life.

While his is a more mild case — he really is missing some teeth, which makes him speak with a lisp, and he's missing his collar bones, which means he can do some crazy things with his shoulders — that doesn't mean that his life has been easy.

The 14-year-old has had to endure several surgeries, and it's also made it harder for him to find work as an actor.

"It was always because of my lisp, and me being shorter and having the teeth issue, that was always the reason they couldn’t cast me,” he explained in an interview with BBC Radio.

"They couldn’t write in a disability into the show because they had already written the script."

That made it all-the-more powerful when the Duffer Brothers, who created "Stranger Things," not only cast Matarazzo in the show, but also embraced his condition and made it a part of the character. (Of course, that wasn't the only part of his character that the writers embraced...)

Matarazzo is using his newfound fame to raise awareness about this rare condition too.

He's opened up to People magazine and the BBC, spreading knowledge about the condition far and wide.

"I just want to raise awareness for it and let people know that it's not something they should be afraid of showing," he told the British talk show host Jonathan Ross.

That sudden limelight has also had a tangible impact on people like Matarazzo. "It really helps them come out of their shells a little bit. Because a lot of people have it much worse than I do and it affects them much worse than it does me," he told the Daily Beast. "Because this was in the show and this is the first time they’ve heard of it outside the doctor’s office, it made them feel really good and it inspired them."

Despite the setbacks that he's faced in the past, Matarazzo's success today is a moving reminder that representation for folks with disabilities is important.

In addition to "Stranger Things," he's even appeared on Broadway several times, and let me tell you: This 14-year-old kid with missing teeth, and a lisp, can belt out show tunes like there's no tomorrow.

There was a time not too long ago when all this would have been impossible. But thanks to people like Gaten Matarazzo, representation is making the world brighter — and fairer — every day.

Courtesy of Movemeant Foundation

True

Have you ever woken up one day and wondered if you were destined to do more in your life? Or worried you didn't take that shot at your dream?

FOX's new show "The Big Leap." is here to show you that all you need to take that second chance is the confidence to do so.

Watch as a group of diverse underdogs from all different walks of life try to change their lives by auditioning for a reality TV dance show, finding themselves on an emotional journey when suddenly thrust into the spotlight. And they're not letting the fact that they don't have the traditional dancer body type, age, or background hold them back.

Unfortunately, far too many people lack this kind of confidence. That's why FOX is partnering with the Movemeant Foundation, an organization whose whole mission is to teach women and girls that fitness and physical movement is essential to helping them develop self-confidence, resilience, and commitment with communities of like-minded girls.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared

One little girl took pictures of her school lunches. The Internet responded — and so did the school.

If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

True
Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

Keep Reading Show less