Falcon Focus: Sophomore refuses to let her stature define or defeat her

April 2, 2018 — by Esha Lakhotia and Muthu Palaniappan

Growing up, sophomore Katrina Li learned that she could not let the condition of dwarfism dictate what people thought of her. Li felt that although she may feel like she was in the spotlight while she was in public, it was no reason for her to feel uncomfortable about her own body.

Dwarfism is a condition that affects the growth of bones and results in a short stature and other potential health complications. There are no medications to cure the condition, which can either be inherited or caused by a spontaneous mutation of certain genes. In Li’s case, it was the latter.

While she finds that she is still able to do many day-to-day activities like others, Li’s condition often proves to be an obstacle. For instance, she is unable to participate in certain contact sports or physical activities.

When she first started participating in PE, she faced a number of challenges. Though her teachers were understanding and modified workouts so that she could do them, she still struggled.

“I disliked playing in teams because it felt like I was always the person who slowed down the rest of the group because of my disadvantage, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone,” Li said. “But the people in any teams that I was in were really supportive and they encouraged me to do my best even if we didn’t win.

But, as Li matured, she realized that she shouldn’t feel discouraged when playing sports. As long as she tried her best and pushed herself to do the best she can do, her contribution would be enough.  

“Some activities in PE are still challenging for me today, but I’ve learned how to handle them with support from others,” Li said.

Self-acceptance has been something she has had to learn.

“It was hard to go around in public with people staring and commenting behind my back,” Li said. “It made making friends a challenge for the first few years of school.”

However, as she grew older, Li realized that her condition was nothing to be ashamed about. Her parents played a big role in her journey of self-acceptance, as they always encouraged her to see herself in the best light and to embrace her differences.

Additionally, Li’s teachers and peers have been acceptive and kind.

One example occurred when one of her friends, sophomore Iris Chiu,  noticed Li couldn’t go on many of the rides during the eighth-grade field trip to Great America because of her stature and hung back to do activities with her that she was able to do. Li admits that even with such support from friends and family, her condition still gets to her sometimes.

“Even when I tell myself not to, I can’t help but feel different around other people or unfamiliar environments, especially in public,” Li said. “I make sure to be open and proactive, and approach people in a way that will make them feel at ease with me.”

Although Li sometimes feels like her friends may be embarrassed to hang out with her in public, she overcame her doubts after she realized her friends love and support her regardless of her condition.

“I am very appreciative of my friends and teachers who do understand my condition and fully support me,” Li said.


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