Poland graduate shares journey of facial difference at library

« Poland Neighbors


by ZACK SHIVELY

zshively@vindy.com

Freddie Seitz and his mother, Rose Seitz, gave a presentation at the Poland library on Jan. 11 regarding the family’s experiences with Freddie’s facial differences.

Rose Seitz began the presentation by talking about her son’s birth and raising him, with all the accomplishments and set backs he has faced over the course of his life. Freddie Seitz got up after and presented information about his life and being kind.

Poland librarian Karen Steed introduced the Seitz family. Steed previously worked as an interpreter for the deaf. She used her knowledge of ASL to sign the presentation to Freddie Seitz while his mom did her presentation.

Rose Seitz began her presentation with the Freddie’s birth. He was born July 20, 1992 with Goldenhar syndrome. He was missing his right ear, jawbone, cheekbone and half of his vertebrae. The doctors told her that her son might not make it through the night.

She then talked about the next 25 years of her son’s life, including surgeries, graduations and love. The family often had to travel for his surgeries. They turned the travels into sightseeing adventures. He began to ride dirt bikes at a younger age, but had to stop because of a back surgery, but he still rides ATVs.

He went to Poland Local Schools where he worked with a mentor, Irene Tunanidas, who helped him make it through school. Steed also began tutoring him in math once he reached high school. He graduated high school and began to study at Rochester Institute of Technology, but he had to transfer to the University of Akron for health reasons. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

Rose Seitz said the doctors always said that he would not make it through the night, but he is doing fine after 25 years. The doctors told her that he would have learning disabilities and would do poorly in math and sciences, but he has thrived in education. He also recently got engaged.

She finished her part of the presentation with a couple videos relating to facial differences. She explained how the Children’s Craniofacial Association has helped them and families like theirs. She played a video that showed a CCA retreat, where families that have children with facial differences take a vacation together and socialize.

She played another CCA video that showed numerous children with craniofacial conditions saying, “I am Auggie Pullman.“ Pullman is the protagonist of R.J. Palacio’s best selling fiction book, “Wonder,“ which highlighted craniofacial conditions for a mainstream audience. She also played the trailer for the movie based on the book.

Freddie Seitz began his portion of the presentation after his mom. He communicated through ASL, and his mom interpreted his signs for the audience. He said that he used to love coming to the library to socialize with his friends when he was in school.

He went over a number of courteous “dos and don’ts“ for interacting with people with craniofacial conditions. He said people should be friendly and say hi and use positive language, such as “differences“ instead of “deformities.“ He said people should not be afraid of people with facial differences and they should not stare and whisper at them. He touched on some general kindness tips as well, such as sitting by the person sitting alone at lunch.

He and his mom then answered questions. Steed set up an area in the back where the audience could write down questions on a piece of paper and place the paper in a basket during the presentation. Seitz then chose the questions from the paper.

Freddie and Rose Seitz do presentations like this throughout the community. They began about three years ago after Palacio’s book first came out. They have done more presenting recently because the movie has sparked interest in their story.

Steed placed Palacio’s other books related to “Wonder“ on display, including the children’s book “We’re All Wonders“ and a quote book titled, “365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts.“ Each of the books come back to Palacio’s phrase: “Choose Kind.“

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