Local doctor hopes "Wonder" will spark conversations on disabilities

Movie starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson is based on the best-selling book by R.J. Palacio
CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- A new movie opening tomorrow tells the inspiring story of a young boy's coming to terms with facial differences from a condition he was born with.

Children born with facial differences and their families face a lot of physical and emotional hardships.

Action News spoke with a local surgeon about the syndrome featured in "Wonder," and how he hopes the movie will spark conversation and kindness.

"I know I'm not an ordinary 10-year-old kid," says August Pullman, or Auggie, in the film.

Auggie heads off to his first mainstream school in the movie based on the book by R.J. Palacio about a boy born with severe facial differences.

Doctor Howard Krein of Jefferson University Hospital performs surgeries on kids with similar issues here and on missions abroad.

He says the character Auggie has a rare, inherited syndrome known as Treacher Collins.

"Which is a group of deformities that occur throughout the head and neck region," says Dr. Krein.

He says typically kids face numerous surgeries to make the jaw, eyes and ears to function properly.

"This is the reconstruction?" Auggie's friend jokes, and the two boys laugh.

And to make differences less visible.

"So it's not about always making someone look perfect but it's making things a little less conspicuous," notes Dr. Krein.

But kids can be tough , and as the movie portrays living with facial differences can be emotionally very difficult.

Doctor Krein hopes the film will give people better understanding about kids like Auggie.

"They want the same things out of life. they want friends, they want to run and play and be happy," he notes.

"They're just normal kids that got dealt sort of a bad hand and we in the medical community do everything to normalize that but it really is society that has to normalize that," he continued.

The author hopes to inspire empathy.

"You can't really teach compassion or kindness but you can try to inspire it by story telling," says R.J. Palacio.

And she continues, "You can't blend in when you were born to stand out. "

The movie, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, opens Friday.
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