Living With... Dwarfism
To grow up with a disability can be physically and emotionally painful. Liz was born with Spondylo-Epiphyseal Dysplasia, a type dwarfism, but she never let that stop her from doing and becoming the woman she is today.
Liz is the youngest of 4 children in her family. When Liz was born, her dwarfism was readily accepted by her parents. Three years earlier, her sister was born with the same diagnosis. Her parents didn't see their daughters as different. They were always treated the same as their brothers, who were not afflicted by the disability.
Having brothers and sisters of all sizes helped Liz get through the tough times and countless surgeries. "It was always nice having Claire as a sister. There was always someone to talk to about what we were going through because we were going through it together," Liz said. "But having my brothers was great too. They helped me get my mind off of upcoming surgeries and just treated me like any other sister; not one who was laying on the couch in a spica cast. I had the perfect balance."
As Liz grew older, her parents taught her to walk a fine line between having independence and asking for help. "As a child, my parents would, of course, help me when I needed it, but they also encouraged me to do things on my own. It made me realize that just because I was little didn't mean I couldn't figure out a way to do things myself."
Throughout Liz's life, she has needed the assistance of adaptive equipment. Step stools help her get in and out of bed, reach light switches and countertops. And her scooter has helped her get from place to place much quicker. "I realized that for me to walk 3 blocks might take an hour. But if I take my scooter I could be there in ten minutes with everyone else."
This planning ahead mentality helped Liz immensely as she attended DePaul University in Chicago. Liz received her Master's in Education and attributes her success to her family. "My parents taught me that to achieve what I wanted in life takes dedication. Through my college career, I kept that in the back of mind. When I wanted to give up, I just remembered there were no limitations to what I could do," Liz said.
As an adult, Liz works as an elementary school teacher, focusing on reading. Each year, she introduces herself to every class to explain her dwarfism to the students. Many of the students are taller than Liz, standing at 3'1". By explaining her dwarfism, the students get to ask questions and fully understand what dwarfism means and that Liz is no different from any other teacher in the school.
As I interviewed Liz, who I have known for years, I found that she is one of the strongest, most positive people I've met. She never once has let her dwarfism hold her back and has never used it as an excuse. I'm very proud to be her friend and have her in my life.
"Just because I have a limitation with height, doesn't mean I have a limitation in life."
Because Liz is a teacher and involved in her community, several people ask her about being a little person. Here are her most frequently and favorite questions asked.
Do little people celebrate Christmas?
My family does.
Are you taller than your sister?
Yes, by one inch.
Can you drive?
Yes. I have a special handle by my steering wheel that maneuvers the gas and brake pedals.
Is your whole family small?
No. I have one sister who is a little person, and my parents and two brothers are not.
What happened? Why are you so small?
I was born with Spondylo-Epiphyseal Dysplasia, a type of dwarfism.