Melissa Logan is nervous about taking her son to see the movie, Wonder.
The Queensland mum-of-three is worried that people in the cinema will stare at her eldest son Charley or point and whisper “he’s just like the boy in the movie”.
Her nerves are not without good reason. Charley, like the film’s protagonist Auggie Pullman, was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, and in his seven years of life has faced the rude stares from strangers who wonder why his face doesn’t look like theirs.
Melissa told Mamamia that Charley notices people staring. It makes him annoyed and frustrated. It’s one of the only reason he ever feels different.
“He will turn around, cross his arms and say ‘why are you staring at me? I’m just like you’ or he gets quite cross now,” she says.
“There have been one or two occasions where you know we’ve gotten home and he’s been like ‘why do they keep staring at me?’ and then that’s normally when he starts asking ‘why am I different?’ or questions like ‘are my ears going to grow?’.”
The rest of the time, Melissa says, Charley is a “happy-go-lucky” seven-year-old who likes himself and is as optimistic, happy and confident as any of his peers.
Melissa says those peers have always accepted Charley for who he is.
“He’s still got the same group of friends (as in prep) and they’re all protective of him. The little girls are really good. They like to mother him.”
But that doesn’t mean Charley’s time at school has always been easy. When he first started prep there were some kids who picked on him and called him names.
Listen: Mia Freedman on why she is #choosingkind. (Post continues.)
“We haven’t had too many bad experiences. It’s just kids being unsure and pointing and sort of laughing, but it’s more out of them not knowing.”
“There were just one or two incidents… When he was in prep an older child had come up and been a bit mean to him.”
Melissa says the school caught the bullying early and handled it with “amazing” care and tactfulness.
“They actually took him to the class where the little boy was and didn’t point him out or anything, and spoke to the class in general and explained that Charley is just like everybody else.”
“And Charley piped up and said he’s just like everyone else, he just has a hearing aid and everyone else is wearing shoes and he’s the same.”
The message got through to the boy as Charley didn’t hear a mean word from him again.
The realities of Wonder.
Melissa says she’s still deciding whether to take Charley to the cinemas or to wait for Wonder to come out on DVD, adding it’s her who’s afraid, not her son.
She’s interested to see how accurately the movie portrays raising a child with facial differences.
The reality for Melissa and her husband Adam is their lives involve a never-ending series of specialist appointments as they ensure Charley, who was born without an ear canal, has poor vision and breathing difficulties, continues to thrive.
"He needs glasses, but because he has no ears and because of the way his face is shaped we are having a very hard time finding glasses that will fit or stay on his face," she says.
"He's just had his hearing aid surgery this year to put a little plate under his skin screwed to his skull and his hearing aid will actually stick with a magnet on it and he won't have his headband anymore.
"We're just waiting for the all-clear to put the magnet on his hearing aid to use it without the headband."
Still, Treacher Collins syndrome is just one part of Charley's life. Melissa says if the passers-by only asked her about him, they'd find that out.
"I'm more than happy for people to just ask me because it makes me feel less uncomfortable. I am so much more uncomfortable when there are kids there staring or there are parents there staring," she says.
"Don't be afraid to ask the parent what's going on with their child. Worst case is someone says 'no, I don't want to talk about it' but nine times out of ten you'd probably find they'd be happy to talk about it."