SIX-year-old Jessica Ward rarely goes anywhere unnoticed. But it’s not her lovely smile which sparks an unkind fascination from strangers, it’s her 88cm height.
Jessica has achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder and a form of dwarfism, which means even her two-year-old brother is now slightly taller than she is.
October marks a month-long campaign to raise awareness of the condition in America and her family, which includes mum Laura (27), dad Carl (37), and brothers Nathan (7) and Ashley (2), are hoping to do the same here.
Laura, of Station Street, Donington, said: “When I was pregnant we didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t until we went for a check-up and her head was measured that we found it was enlarged.
“When she was 12 or 13 weeks old she was diagnosed with achondroplasia. The doctor told us she would not live past the age of one.”
Despite her family preparing for the worst, Jessica, a pupil at Donington Cowley Primary School, outlived those predictions and should now have a long life ahead of her.
She does have other health problems, including having a bladder a quarter of the size it should be, fluid on the brain, sleep apnea and bowed legs, but she manages these with regular check-ups.
Modifications have also been to the family home to make day-to-day tasks easier.
The lights are controlled by sensors because Jessica can not reach the light switches, door handles have been lowered, the bathroom modified and she has a stair lift.
However, Jessica’s life is not without difficulty and she has been reduced to tears as strangers have stared and whispered about her.
Laura said the family would much rather people ask them about Jessica’s condition.
She said: “We have been to places like car boot sales where we’ll be walking and you can hear people saying ‘isn’t she diddy’.
“When you say that she is a dwarf, they apologise. We do not want them to apologise, we’re not sorry.
“She is Jessica, she is six, can can do everything anyone else can but she may need a stool to stand on.”
Carl added: “It’s ignorance. All we want to do is make people aware of her condition. She’s not a farce, she is a human being and she is our daughter.”
As well as spreading the message of Dwarfism Awareness Month, the Ward family also hope to find other local families affected by dwarfism.
l Anyone wanting to get in touch with the Ward family should email firstname.lastname@example.org or search for Laura Ward was Gosling on Facebook.