Real-Life 'Wonder' Boy: How the Best-Selling Novel Helped Other Kids Accept Child With Facial Condition

Playing 13-Year-Old Boy Was Born Without Cheekbones, Eye Sockets or Ears

The new Julia Roberts movie, Wonder, is about a boy born with severe facial deformities and his struggles to fit in.

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The film involves a real-life condition called Treacher Collins Syndrome, which is something Russell and Magda Newman know all too well, as it's a condition that suffered by their son, Nathaniel.

"He didn't look like a human being," Russell tearfully told ABC News. "He didn't look like a person." 

Nathaniel, 13, is a real life “Wonder Boy.” He was born without cheekbones, eye sockets and ears.

ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas has spent three years documenting the young boy’s story.

"I found out through a friend of my mom’s, who was Nathaniel Newman’s fifth grade teacher. She emailed my mom and said, ‘Does Elizabeth know about the book, Wonder? I have got the real life 'Wonder Boy' in my class," Vargas told Inside Edition. 

Just like the boy in the movie, Nathaniel suffered cruel taunts, but the Newmans say Wonder, on which the new film is based, helped other kids accept their son.

"That book is teaching people to choose kind because of its message of empathy, because of its glimpse into what it is like to live with this syndrome," Vargas said.  

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20/20 also arranged a special surprise for the family, which was a private get-together with singer Christina Aguilera. 

Her song “Beautiful” has been an inspiration to them ever since they watched her perform it on the Grammys in 2004. It was the night Nathaniel was born. 

"They were in the hospital room that night and obviously in shock, crying, and the TV is on and the Grammys start," Vargas told Inside Edition. "The Newmans watched this performance and they said, ‘It was like she was singing just to us.’ It gave them the courage to walk down the hall and hold their son for the first time."