NORTH BEND – A lot of people stare at Dominique Seaman, but very few see her for who she is.
The fourth-grader’s mom, Deslie Seaman, hopes to change that a little by educating the public about dwarfism.
The 10-year-old North Bend Elementary student was born with Kniest dysplasia, an uncommon form of dwarfism, which has rendered her legs and arms disproportionately short compared to the rest of her body.
Though she’s only in fourth-grade, Dominique has experienced more than a few brushes of astounding cruelty from children, as well as the insensitivity of many adults. Thus, the cute blond girl with a love of cats and swimming does her best not to wear or do anything that might draw attention to herself.
Deslie is just asking those who encounter her daughter not to stare or counsel their children loudly on how to behave.
“The best thing to do when one encounters people who are different is to smile and move on,” said Deslie, who lives with her husband and daughter in the Uplands of North Bend. “If your child has a question, great. Learn about differences. No one in this world is perfect. Please do not stare, do not laugh. Dominique certainly did not ask for this difference. It just is.”
Deslie freely admits she’s been overly protective, but she feels it’s necessary for now.
“Maybe I take it too seriously,” Deslie said. “I’m an automatic over-protective mom. I just do it because I want her to be happy. You’re only young once. She’s going to have to deal with things, but there are some things that shouldn’t happen, especially in our home of the Snoqualmie Valley.”
The need for local education on her daughter’s condition became apparent when a seemingly innocent picture was included in Dominique’s school yearbook. The picture showed a boy kneeling shoes under his knees. His hands were drawn into his shirt and he had large eye protection on his face as glasses. When Dominique saw the picture, she wondered if the boy was making fun of her.
Kniest dysplasia is a type of spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, or S.E.D., found in the spectrum of type II collagen conditions. Collagen is a protein that is a component of bone, cartilage and connective tissue. Several types of dwarfism including Kniest dysplasia are due to changes in a protein called type II collagen. Type II collagen is the major collagen of the nucleus pulposa (a component of the spine), cartilage and vitreous (a component of the eye).
Kniest dysplasia is usually diagnosed at birth and can result in physical features such as a round face with a flat nasal bridge, a cleft pallate, eye problems or hearing loss. The joints are enlarged at birth and can suffer further deformities.
There are only 60 people in the United States with Dominique’s same type of dwarfism, and only about 200 in the world.
When Dominique was first born, Deslie had to quit her job to tend to Dominique who was on life support. She’s had nine surgeries since then, has had to wear a body cast at one time and will have to get her hips replaced in the future. She uses a wheelchair when going long distances because of her arthritis.
Dominique has pretty much always experienced joint pain, though she never recognized it as such, being so young and not knowing any other way to feel. As if these everyday discomforts weren’t hard enough to bear, Dominique must wait for political correctness to catch up to her way of life.
“This is the last frontier in terms of political correctness. It still seems people think it’s all right to pick on short people,” Deslie said.
Also on the list of “what not to do or say” is the word “midget.” Deslie, who recently hosted a party for the Puget Sound chapter of Little People of America, said those living with dwarfism prefer the term “little people.” “Midget” is seen as on par with a racial slur.
Dominique is not expected to grow more than 4-feet tall. Deslie is hoping some awareness will grow in the community to make life a little easier for her daughter, who has yet to experience the ultimate coming-of-age bootcamp – high school.
“I’d love an awareness thing to happen because we’re here to stay,” Deslie said. “In the past, we’ve always educated people. We’re pretty patient in stores and things, but as she’s gotten older, it’s been harder.”
Still, Dominique’s request is simple.
“Please treat me like you treat everyone else,” she said.
Little People of America is a nonprofit organization that provides support and information to people of short stature and their families. Find out more about dwarfism at www.lpaonline.org.
Staff Writer Melissa Kruse may be contacted (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.