An amazingly determined and resourceful girl
Naomi Van Deman (10) is an incredible young lady. She is passionate about music and performing arts, active in choir, theater and learning the guitar. She likes cooking, riding her bike and horses, and spending time with her family and friends. Naomi is also a champion swimmer.
Naomi was born with Achondroplasia (ACH), the most common form of dwarfism. It is a genetic anomaly that occurs approximately one in 20,000 to 30,000 live births. ACH primarily affects the growth of long bones, resulting in shorter-than-average arms and legs.
“Being born with ACH definitely does not define her, but it has helped her grow into an amazingly determined and resourceful individual,” Meredith Van Deman said of her daughter. Naomi does not let her short stature slow her down; she is like any other girl her age, only a little more inventive.
Like many young children, Naomi took to swimming when she was 3 years old. She has been swimming ever since; specifically, the past two years with the Castle Crocs summer swim team and year-round with the Colorado Athletic Club Stingrays.
Swimming is good exercise for anyone, but because it is gentle on joints, it is a good fit for individuals with ACH, who often have more joint pain than an average-sized person. Naomi likes backstroke best because, as she put it, “It is smooth and calm and it makes me feel fast!”
She is fast. Naomi participates in the National Competition of the Dwarfism Athletic Association of America (DAAA) each year. In 2023, she came home with four swimming medals.
The DAAA competition is held concurrently with the Little People of America (LPA) National Conference each year. Though two independent organizations, they hold national functions at the same time and place annually. The LPA brings medical experts, seminar speakers and social events to the national conference, allowing individuals and families with dwarfism access to medical care, information from experts and a sense of community not always found close to home.
Naomi and Meredith usually make a girls’ trip to the two events. Naomi reconnects with friends and loves the DAAA events best. They provide a more level playing field for people with small statures to compete against one another. There are also clinics and classes for individuals to learn new sports and activities. Naomi set an LPA world record for erg rowing in her division last year. She has picked up badminton, and participates in team sports like volleyball, basketball and soccer while there too. She wants to swim in the Paralympics when she is a little older.
The Van Deman family feels blessed. They have received much support and understanding as they make sure Naomi has the resources she needs to become, and stay, age-appropriately independent. But Naomi herself is a huge gift. She is strong, incredibly kind and compassionate, and is also playful with a love of laughter and jokes. “She has the biggest heart and a beautifully positive outlook on life,” concluded Meredith.
By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Meredith Van Deman