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Last Updated: Friday November 18 2005 08:48 GMT

How I cope when people stare

Jessica
Every year people all around the country raise money for Children in Need.

Jessica was born with a medical condition that affects her face and hands.

Here she explains how some of the money that's been raised has helped build her confidence.

"My face looks different to most people's, and my hands look kind of different too.

I was born with something called Apert Syndrome which meant the bones in my head were fused together before I was born.

Lots of operations

It also affected my hands, so I was born without individual fingers. I've had to have lots of operations which have helped create three fingers and a thumb.

I can write OK and everything, but will need to have further operations and skin grafts on my hands as I grow.

What are you staring at?

I don't always notice if people stare at me or make comments.

I did once have an argument with a mate - well, an ex-mate now - and she made nasty comments about my face. I was pretty upset about that, because she was a friend.

I used to feel angry and want to say to people, "What are you staring at?" I have had to learn to stick up for myself.

Changing Faces, building confidence

Things really changed for me when I started going to an organisation called 'Changing Faces'. They really helped me and my family when I was about to start secondary school.

They sent me a series of booklets about how to deal with other people staring, asking questions or making comments about my face and hands. It really built up my confidence.

They also organised a meeting with my new school and my family to help us work out how it was going to be for me.

Swapping stories

I've been to a Changing Faces workshop where I got to meet other teenagers who had similar conditions. We got to swap stories and tactics for dealing with things.

I was so relieved to see that there were other people out there who were experiencing the same things as me. I felt much happier after it and not so alone. I feel so much better about myself and in control of difficult situations.

I would like to be treated as normal, just like any other child really."

Jessica, 14


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