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East County Thursday, May. 7, 2009 8 years ago

STANGS: Lakewood's Dyer inspires school

by: Yalda Hajavi

She may be small, but Lakewood Ranch High School junior Katie Dyer has extremely large plans for her life.

Dyer, who was born with dwarfism, is taking advantage of her educational opportunities at Lakewood with hopes of using her life to help other individuals with similar conditions by being a model for them and proving that she can accomplish goals of all sizes.

Already, Dyer’s determination is an inspiration to Lakewood students and faculty. She describes her day as an average one of an American girl but with some adjustments. She begins by getting out of bed, checking her usual e-mail on the computer and then getting dressed with her mom’s help. Just like any other average 17-year-old, Katie has her driver’s license. Her car is specialized with a higher seat, an extended accelerator and brake for her to reach.

At school, she takes the full six-class curriculum. To get around campus, she rides a scooter and gets help from Rhonda Anderson, a teacher aide who walks with her to help her get to her classes.

“Katie is like a daughter to me,” Anderson said. “Her positive personality, and how she overcomes her situation without ever complaining really makes her special.”

Other than physical differences, there really isn’t much that separates her from everyone else because she receives the same education and enjoys things that most teenage girls do. Katie spends a lot of her time with family when she is not at school. She enjoys spending time with them and just having fun.

“There aren’t many things that I consider difficult with having this disease, but just that I can’t reach things being short,” Dyer said.

Because of her dwarfism, Dyer has had to endure several surgeries throughout her life, including a back surgery three years ago that she considers one of the biggest obstacles she has overcome. She was hospitalized for one month but said the following year of recovery was more grueling because she couldn’t walk and ended up losing her voice because of her breathing tube.

To help with the recovery process, Katie took painkillers and participated in physical therapy and pool therapy.

During that year, she continued her studies at home as a Hospital Homebound student. Lakewood social studies teacher Matt Pascuzzi taught Katie her subjects every day at her home.

Dyer also has had bouts with illnesses, including pneumonia and ear infections.

Dyer credits the support she gets from her friends, family and parents for her positive attitude. Her mom and best friend are always there for her when she needs them and she feels that she can rely on them for everything.

“My mom is always reminding me that I’m no different than anybody else, and that helps me a lot,” she said.

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