by Laura Hemly
My friend’s son, Benjamin, is like any other 10-year-old boy. He wants to play, swim, ride a bike, have fun with friends, fit in — but he also was born with an uncommon form of dwarfism, SED. He stands only 3.5 feet tall, has had a lifetime of medical problems resulting from his dwarfism, and needs to have special services provided for him by his school. He’s also the only dwarf with SED in his community.
In June 2001, Benjamin was riding his bicycle and broke his left femur in a spiral fashion, shattering the bone and leaving him in traction for five weeks at the local hospital. When released from the hospital after two surgeries he was put in a body cast that went from his waist to his toes on both feet. He was restricted to a wheelchair for another month. After the cast was removed, he needed reconditioning exercises; because of the dwarfism he had no muscle tone.
Benjamin was schooled at home until December. His speech therapist wanted to do something special to make up for his really lousy year, so she asked his mother what Benjamin wanted most. Thinking it would be impossible, his mother described Benjamin’s desire to meet other children with dwarfism at the Little People of America (LPA) annual conference, being held that year in Salt Lake City.
The therapist said she’d see about fundraising, but Benjamin’s mother didn’t believe it would happen. Two weeks later, the therapist called to say that hotel rooms were booked and plane tickets purchased for three people to attend the conference! The family’s LPA membership was paid for the year, along with their conference meals, the convention banquet, and T-shirts for all of them.
The entire staff of Benjamin’s school, as well as his doctors, donated funds via the speech therapist to make this dream trip possible. At the conference, Benjamin met other dwarfs with SED who’ve gone on to successful and independent lives, including a movie actor and an engineer.
He discovered that he was not the only person with SED that had a problem swimming, and by the end of the conference he had learned to swim and gained much more confidence in the water. He also met a girl with SED who’s three years older than he and lives only 20 miles away.
***Thanks to Benjamin’s speech therapist and her fund-raising efforts, this 10-year-old boy has gained great confidence in himself. He knows that anything is possible in spite of the hand that life has dealt him. The wonderful folks who contributed to this trip understood how much it would mean to him to attend a conference where he would meet other people like himself. Their gift is profound: Benjamin now sees how to focus on his abilities instead of his disabilities.