MANCHESTER – “I do the same things as anyone else,” says 12 year old Annie Vaiciulis, echoing the message she shares with her community at Saint Bridget School in Manchester.
She prepared a presentation explaining that states: she’s a little person…and it’s really not a big deal. “It just told students and staff about my condition and that I don’t need to be treated in a special way,” she explains.
The 8th grader was born with a rare, genetic condition called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia. “It hasn’t been an issue,” says mom Colleen. “She’s really successful and has lots of friends and is high achieving.”
But people often have misconceptions. “Sometimes friends want to pick her up or younger kids in the school will assume she’s their grade level,” adds Colleen.
There are challenges, too. “Sometimes when I’m shopping for clothes…the style I like is in bigger sizes,” says Annie.
“It’s a little hard, I don’t know what to expect in terms of relationships,” says Colleen with honesty. “That’s probably our next hurdle.”
But peer support helps when questions arise. The Stafford Springs family participates in events organized by Little People of America.
They also aim to raise awareness about Patient Airlift Services which offers free air transport for those requiring medical care. The Vaichulis’ use PALS when traveling to Annie’s annual appointment with specialists in Delaware. “I’m very grateful for it because it saves us a lot of money in the end,” says Annie.
The soon-to-be teenager likes to open eyes and has big dreams to become a biologist in the future. “I’m not worried,” says Colleen. “She’s doing fine and she’s an example for her peers and the adults around her. It’s great to watch.”
The New England chapter of Little People of America is hosting an event for families in October at Great Wolf Lodge.
Click here to learn more about the upcoming awareness month.