L-R Bailey Connor, Taneya Shannen and Maggie Allridge involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month.
L-R Bailey Connor, Taneya Shannen and Maggie Allridge involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month. Chris Ison ROK271017cdwarfism1

CQ Dwarfism awareness: 'We're all in it together'

IMAGINE going about your day, being at the shops, walking or driving your car, and noticing people not just whispering and pointing you out, but taking photographs of you.

This is the reality for Rockhampton locals, Bailey Connor and Taneya Shannen, who both have a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, the most common form which occurs in roughly one in 25,000 to one in 40,000 births.

Mr Connor, an 18-year-old drummer in the local band, Silky Fuzz, was diagnosed at six-weeks-of-age.

 

L-R Bailey Connor, Taneya Shannen and Maggie Allridge involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month.
L-R Bailey Connor, Taneya Shannen and Maggie Allridge involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month. Chris Ison ROK271017cdwarfism2

It was in high school that he began public speaking and raising awareness after being approached by Ms Shannen, a long time family friend.

Mr Connor aims to "make it standard that we are all the same essentially, to the point where there shouldn't be the harassment that's received from the public".

Living in Rockhampton his whole life, people are accepting of Mr Connor, but it is when he travels to other towns that he experiences forms of harassment.

"You do get some cases of people that are taking photos of you due to the fact you are different and for some reason ... there's obviously something funny or whatever about it.

"Most of the time its verbal ... The derogatory term of "the midget" ... that is used most often."

Mr Connor hopes through raising awareness, others will not have to deal with these forms of discrimination, and wishes to educate people on the fact that "everyone is different in their own way".

The greatest difficulty came when he was seeking employment after graduation whilst in high school.

A school counsellor and good friend, reached out to his contacts to secure employment for Mr Connor, but was swiftly met with rejection from trade employers who believed that Mr Connor would contribute to risking the lives of their other employees.

 

L-R Bailey Connor,Maggie Allridge, and Taneya Shannenare involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month.
L-R Bailey Connor,Maggie Allridge, and Taneya Shannenare involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month. Chris Ison ROK271017cdwarfism4

Local teacher, Krysten Thompson, was shocked when people would ask whether she would've "taken care of it" if she had known that her daughter, Maggie, would be born with dwarfism.

"I've seen some ugliness in people," Ms Thompson said.

After having spinal surgery when she was only one-year-old, an experience that Ms Thompson said was "terrifying", Maggie, now 4, quickly stole the hearts of everyone who would come to meet her.

"She's adorable and charming, and she knows it," Ms Thompson said.

However, she still worries about the future of her daughter and shares the same fears as every other parent.

"I worry about her being bullied, about her having a career that is fulfilling, that she will have people around her that love her for who she is.

"To handle bullying ... I will teach her to educate other kids and to take action depending on the circumstances."

She blames a lot of the "discrimination" and stereotypes placed on those with dwarfism on dated ideas that they have less grey matter than people of average height.

 

L-R Bailey Connor,Maggie Allridge, and Taneya Shannenare involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month.
L-R Bailey Connor,Maggie Allridge, and Taneya Shannenare involved in Dwarfism Awareness Month. Chris Ison ROK271017cdwarfism3

Maggie's doting mother says despite the health issues and many appointments - all of which are taken care of by Lady Cilento Children's Hospital - Maggie has the same emotional responses and traits as any other child.

Taneya Shannen got involved with dwarfism awareness when she attended an SSPA (Short-Statured People of Australia) convention in 1999 at Alexandra Headlands on the Sunshine Coast.

"Conventions are when you meet all different little people ... the conventions which are held once a year ... you just go and mingle with everyone and meet so many people.

"In 2004, we went to San Francisco and their convention which is called LPA (Little People of America)... their conventions are massive and you just meet so many people.

"We all mingle around with all ages ... we'll have a sports day, doctor's day, where we have doctors from all around Australia come talk to us. We do some activities wherever we are. At the Sunshine Coast, we'll go to the beach and to Australia Zoo.

"When dwarfism awareness came out a couple of years ago we started spreading the word to people and going to schools ... putting it on Facebook on our profiles ... so people know more about it."

Ms Shannen has had her own experiences with discrimination and hopes that by making more people aware of dwarfism, there can one day be an end to the stigma that surrounds the little people community.

"You even get adults these days that tell their children to look and stare ... they'll get the camera out and take photos.

"Everyone is normal no matter whether they're small, skinny, fat, large. We're all the same no matter what."



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