How “Wonder” Is Changing Perceptions of Apert Syndrome

A new film coming out this month will change the way you think about Apert Syndrome and similar disease. Keep reading to learn more about the film, or follow the original story here.

“Wonder” is one of those special films that will keep you thinking for a lifetime. That’s what one sixth-grade student said after a special previewing. It is a film aiming to break down barriers, and promote kindness. Specifically, the film’s creative team wanted to properly highlight the “challenges and joys unique to children with craniofacial differences and their families.”

Mary Cate is about six years old. She was born in December of 2011 with Apert Syndrome. One the genes that makes up who she is has an extra protein attached. One extra protein resulted in extra bones, and cartilage. It caused her to develop a misshapen skull, and for her fingers to grow melded together.

Mary Cate and her mother, Kerry Ryan Lynch have often traveled to spread the same message as the film “Wonder.” No coincidence, considering they’ve used R.J. Palacio’s book (on which the movie is based) for many of their talks. Lynch has traveled to just under 130 schools to promote a message of kindness and acceptance.

Ms. Lynch was at the same sneak peek screening as the sixth-grade class. She was struck by how much the film reflected her own life. “Wonder” portrays the life of August Pullman. A new fifth-grader, entering public school for the first time, August is already different. There’s probably enough to make a feature film right there. August, however, has unique facial features similar to Mary Cate.

The struggle that comes with looking different, and searching for inclusion are handled with rare honesty. Ms. Lynch was deeply moved to see so many elements of her own story portrayed. She applauds the film for its authentic and stirring emotions.

The school Mary Cate attends already accepts her. The students say she barely stands out anymore, and they are grateful for how Mary Cate’s mother has taught them about her condition. Mary Cate will get a chance to see the film with her class on November 17th when it is officially released. There are already plans to use this new movie in schools across the nation to promote messages against bullying.

Representation in Hollywood has been a hot topic of late, and for good reason. It is rare to see people outside the mainstream portrayed as successful, sympathetic, or even desirable. With the film not yet released, I cannot personally speak for it, but reviews are promising. Students note that it sticks close to the book. Ms. Lynch, and Mr. Palacio exchanged words and acknowledged that the film’s team accomplished their goal to highlight and promote those with differences.

Though Apert Syndrome is specifically uncommon, there are many conditions with similar symptoms. Perhaps Mr. Palacio’s novel, and the new film based on it, will be a cornerstone for discussing and accepting those affected. We could all do to wonder and love a little more.

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