At just three feet, one inch tall, 7-year-old Jasela Sianipar is the smallest student at Everett's Penny Creek Elementary. Even shorter than the kindergartners. But the second grader, with her ever present gap toothed smile, doesn't seem to care. I asked her how it feels to be smaller than her classmates.
"I get to do a lot of things and go on the monkey bars and I can climb high!" Jasela squeals.
Her mom, Angie Garcia, found out Jasela would be born a little person when she was about four months pregnant.
"They take the measurements of the legs and the arms and they were shorter and her head was a little bit bigger," Angie says. "So they did diagnose her when I was pregnant, but she was born completely healthy. She was born seven pounds, two ounces, 19 inches long."
Even though Jasela is happy and healthy, she has had her share of stares and name calling.
"One time there was a fifth grader who called [me a] midget," Jasela told me. "That made me feel sad and mad."
October is Dwarfism Awareness Month, so Angie and Jasela want to remind the public that little people have feelings, and should be treated like everybody else.
"A lot of people always have a lot of questions and think that she can't do things that an average sized kid her age can do, but she can," says Angie. "She may struggle a little bit but she'll overcome it and succeed in it."
"Right now we're just building her self-confidence," Angie explains. "She goes through a little bit of things every once in a while, with comments from other people, but as long as she knows who she is and what she's capable of. She has a lot of people surrounding her, teenagers that have dwarfism as well, and they really help her with things that she goes through. So I'm not really scared because I know there's always going to be people there to support her."
Jasela also attends a camp for little people called Camp Korey, in Carnation, WA.
"You get together with other little people and you get to meet new ones," Jasela says. "We do arts and crafts and we do music. You get to go swimming. Oh, yeah! You get to do rock climbing!"
Jasela will probably grow to be about four feet tall, and she has big plans for her future.
"[I want to be] an artist."
From the LPA:
• DON'T treat people with dwarfism according to their height, instead of their age or ability. Little people are attorneys, teachers, engineers and doctors. Pretty embarrasing when an adult is treated like a child. And teens shouldn't tease teens with dwarfism.
• DON'T "pet" or "pat" a person with dwarfism on the head. Not good. NEVER do this. It is always preferable to talk to anyone at their same height. Sit down, bend down or step back so that we are not looking into your nostrils.
• STOP encouraging the entertainment industry's stereotype of little people. People with dwarfism shouldn't be spectacles for entertainment. Yes, there are people with dwarfism who encourage this stereotype, but people with dwarfism have also played serious roles and have helped make the general public more aware of dwarfism.
• HIRE little people with dwarfism. Make sure your company understands that little people work just as hard if not harder. All we might need is a well-placed stool and we are ready to go! We have amazing personalities and are often caught smiling even in our sleep.