The movie and book “Wonder” follow Augie, a ten-year-old boy with facial deformities as he goes to school for the first time and meets new people. Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix launched a “Wonder” outreach program that puts teenagers with conditions like Augie’s in classrooms.
Students learn and ask questions about craniofacial disorders from people who live with them. The program is spreading the movie’s message of “choose kind” to hundreds of children.
In “Wonder,” Augie is subjected to bullying, stares, and finally, acceptance as other kids see beyond his deformities.
“Some days, I feel like I don’t hear as well as I do other days,” Sarah Woolworth said, a Barrow “Wonder” Program volunteer. “Then some days I just don’t want to.”
Woolworth and Isaiah Acosta both have craniofacial differences. They share stories about multiple surgeries and dealing with bullies because of how they look. And they take questions.
Woolworth continued, “After, I feel like they learned something, and they’re like, “wow, I’ll definitely work on being kinder, I learned something. I can see a change in their eyes.”
Jeffrey Takeuchi has seen the program three times, and still learns new things.
“I think it’ll make a big difference, but it might take just a little bit more,” Jeffrey said.
Co-medical director at the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center, Patricia Beals, DMD, loves watching the humanity develop in kids who meet Sarah and Isaiah.
“I’ve seen them move beyond, “This is a patient with a medical condition” to, “This is a peer who likes jazz or is a good painter,” Dr. Beals said.
Sarah says she learns things from the program, too. She hopes it goes nationwide, because:
“It’s fascinating! It’s amazing,” Sarah said as she smiled.
And she wants more people to embrace “Wonder’s” message of, “choose kind.”
So far, Barrow’s Wonder program has reached about 15-hundred children. Dr. Beals and her husband, Dr. Stephen Beals, run the center, which is one of only a few that offer full-service treatment for patients.
Besides surgery and specialized orthodontics, patients can get speech and hearing therapy and psychological help. They treat children and adults, and even expecting parents.