Making a stand for dwarfism awareness
A WORLD sporting champion, a high-school drummer and a curious three-year-old girl.
Taneya Shannen, Bailey Connor and Maggie Allridge are each as unique as the next, but the trio are bound by one common cause: to raise dwarfism awareness.
All born and raised in Rockhampton, they are determined to educate their local community throughout Dwarfism Awareness Month, held in October.
Taneya said in her eyes, it was simple.
"Everyone should be treated the same, whether they are small, tall, fat or skinny, and not have to worry when we go in public with having people stare and take photos, as we are all the same," she said.
She said although this behaviour was more a reflection on the person, it was often difficult to ignore people who pointed out her appearance, even to the point of taking photos.
But public perceptions have been no barrier for Taneya, who has represented the country at the World Dwarf Games; similar to the Olympics and held every four years.
Although an injury has put her out of the running for next year's games in Canada, the swimmer, track and relay runner will help at the Games.
Bailey had his eyes firmly set on becoming an occupational health and safety officer in the mines.
Completing his final year at The Cathedral College, Bailey said he had mostly experienced acceptance and positivity since he was diagnosed with achondroplasia, more commonly known as dwarfism, at four weeks old.
The passionate drummer's outlook for the future was arguably brighter than most.
"But relating it back to dwarfism, growing up in a town like Rockhampton I haven't really dealt with any severe issues.
"The only issues I have really incurred were when I was probably 14-15 and the change between that child-look in the going to adult-look, and I believe that it's where it starts to have more of an impact on someone.
"So you go from someone being less independent to you are out by yourself, and that just gives off to people you are independent, you're alone.
"But life beyond school doesn't scare me in the fact I have to go out there and deal with negative people.
"I look at it as more I am going to go out there and see what the world has to offer and the positives, happy type of thing.
"You don't put barriers in front of yourself to run into; when the barrier comes you just jump over it."
As Bailey shared his experiences, young Maggie, aged three, sang a tune she had learnt at Skippys in Frenchville daycare centre.
Mother Krysten Thompson said she hoped Maggie would grow up in a world of respect and social awareness.
"I guess she is not going to be a professional basketballer, but no one in the family is," Krysten laughed.
"She is going to do whatever the heck she likes.
"She is a great problem solver already, she is a very good climber, and she is a very good manipulator - she just gets the other kids to carry around the lunch box if it's too heavy at daycare."
Krysten said during Dwarfism Awareness Month, it was easy for the commu- nity to play their part.
"I guess it comes down to social media, people using the photo app on their phone respectfully," she said.
"It's Dwarfism Awareness Month and yes there are a whole heap of issues around dwarfism and the access and that sort of thing, but (it is about) just realising that dwarfism isn't something to be afraid of, that it is out there, that it can happen to anyone."
See facebook.com/raising awarenessfordwarfism.