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As Hollywood film ‘Wonder’ launches, children with a disfigurement reveal they are bullied for looking ‘different’

Changing Faces is launching a new Wonder-related toolkit for schools to help teachers support their pupils and reduce appearance-related bullying.

As the film Wonder, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, launches across the UK, we can reveal that almost half of young people with a disfigurement are bullied at school. The vast majority – nearly 90% – says their primary school did not succeed in stopping the bullying.

The film, Wonder, is based on R.J. Palacio’s best-selling children’s book about the school experiences of a 10–year-old boy with a facial disfigurement.

At least 1.3 million children, young people and adults in the UK are estimated to have significant disfigurements, including 569,000 with facial disfigurements.

Thirteen year-old Sam was born with a cleft lip and palate and had his first operation when he was just six months old. Sam says one of the worst things is getting stared at: “I want to shout out ‘what are you staring at’ but I realise that won’t change anything. I want to say to those people ‘don’t always judge a book by its cover.’ It’s fine to look because I know I have a different appearance but please don’t keep on staring.”

We work with young people with medical conditions, marks or scars that make them look different and their families, as well as campaigning against discrimination and prejudice. We run workshops and training in schools, and are launching a new Wonder-related toolkit for schools to help teachers support their pupils and reduce appearance-related bullying.

If every school in the country ran a Changing Faces workshop – then we’d be an important step closer to a society that doesn’t judge people based on their appearance.

Becky Hewitt, Changing Faces CEO

Changing Faces CEO Becky Hewitt says: “Young people are under such pressure to look a certain way – so looking and feeling different in a society where beauty is valued very highly can be extremely difficult. We want to move towards a society that values difference so that everyone can live confident and happy lives.

“If the film educates one more child to be aware of the impact appearance-related bullying might have on someone, or helps a child to stop and think before staring at someone that looks different in the street then that will be hugely positive.

“Reaching children when they’re young, so that they learn to value difference is so important. If every school in the country ran a Changing Faces workshop – then we’d be an important step closer to a society that doesn’t judge people based on their appearance.”

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