Bullies have picked on a four year-old boy and branded him ‘gross’ after he was born missing an ear. Austin Collins, from Paw Paw in Michigan, was born with a birth defect called microtoia that left his right outer ear undeveloped, but has still found himself the target of cruel jibes.

Austin said: ‘Someone a long time ago called my ear gross.’ The youngster’s big sister Caitlyn acts as his ‘protector’ on the bus to school in the mornings, and says people’s reaction to her brother’s disability can upset him.

Caitlyn explained: ‘He’s a tough little guy, but sometimes.’ The Collins family are now fundraising for a $60,000 surgery that would see California surgeon Dr Sheryl Lewin reconstruct his ear. They have so far raised $13,000, and must pay the entire cost of the operation because their insurer considers it a cosmetic procedure.

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Austin’s mother Pam Collins and his dad Roy want their son to have the best chance in life possible, and fear the bullying may get worse if his ear is not fixed before he gets older. Pam said: ‘I want my son to have the best life and I will do whatever it takes to get him to the place that we need to be.

‘We just keep reaching out to people and just hoping that we can get there and we want this to be his year of the ear.

‘We’re going to get his big ear this year.’

And Caitlyn told of her hopes for her little brother’s future after he has surgery, saying: ‘When I’m not there he won’t have to explain why he has a little ear.’