POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – “Wonder,” a new movie coming out about a young child with facial differences, has prompted a local man with a similar case to come back home and share his experience.
Freddie Seitz, now 25 years old, attended Poland Middle School with his siblings. They spent the day on Tuesday telling current students, parents and faculty their story.
“A few years ago, I was in this school. I was sitting where you’re sitting,” Seitz said.
He was born 10 weeks early with Goldenhar Syndrome — a craniofacial difference that, among other things, left him without his right ear, cheek or jawbone.
By the time Seitz was three he was completely deaf, and by five he’d had more than 19 surgeries to repair parts of his face and help him breathe. He uses sign language to communicate.
The movie is based off a book by the same name, which Poland students have been reading.
“The book was a good opportunity to talk to the students and I think it’s a really good opportunity. It’s exciting to be back here,” Seitz said.
His talk comes just a few days before Wonder’s release in theaters. The movie tells the story of a young boy with a similar facial difference.
“A facial difference affects the person,” said Seitz’s mother, Rose. “It affects the entire family, so my kids and Freddie have all handled this tremendously well. They’re good kids.”
During his time in Poland, Seitz said he dealt with his share of bullying and lots of people stared at him. Still, he said he’s thankful for the guidance his teachers gave him, specifically Irene Tuninidas.
She also lost her hearing when she was young and was instrumental in helping Seitz succeed in school.
“She told me, ‘There are no limits. Deaf people or hearing, it doesn’t matter. Just continue to do what you want.’ She helped raise me to the next level,” Seitz said.
“I was overwhelmed and amazed to see how well Fred spoke about his schooling,” Tuninidas said.
When the talk was over, Seitz and his mom talked with students one-on-one. Some of them even asked him to sign their own copy of the book, Wonder.
Seitz recently graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in electrical engineering and is currently looking for a job.
In the meantime, he’s hoping he can help kids like those in Poland understand that our differences don’t need to divide us.