Corey, whose given name is Encore, is not only a vegetarian, but he also has dwarfism, and is the first such student to attend a Bayonne school.
Dwarfism is a medical condition that causes slow or delayed growth. It can be caused by several hundred different things, and has a variety of physical manifestations, some more severe than others.
“Corey has the best form of dwarfism,” his mother Tara Powners said.
Which means that he has made unexpected progress—such as learning to stand and walk at 14 months, when many other such children develop spine issues that prevent walking until they are nearly four years old.
“Corey sat up at seven months,” Tara said.
Although Tara is a Bayonne native, she lived in Arizona at the time of Corey’s birth, where as a child-development specialist, she ran a small school for cognitive learning.
For Corey, this was a remarkably lucky break, since his mother was not only infinitely patient in dealing with him but also well-versed in the development issues Corey had to face growing up.
One thing Tara understood from the start is that dwarfism doesn’t mean intellectually slow. Many people with dwarfism are extremely bright and accomplished. So she vowed from the start to keep him out of special-needs classes that might hold him back.
Corey’s cognitive abilities were on par with those of other students, so he did not need the support network that is often associated with special-needs classes. He needed the challenges everyday school students faced.
“I wanted him in regular classes,” Tara said, understanding, however, that mainstreaming involved a risk of being picked on by other students.
Bayonne has a good reputation for ferreting out bullyism, and Robinson is one of the more progressive schools in the district, a multicultural facility that embraces a variety of ethnic and social differences. In this sense, Corey was fortunate.
“I want him to get used to the real world,” Tara said. “This is the world he’s going to have to live in later.”
Tara said she thought about homeschooling Corey, but said she really wanted him to have the experience of school and exposure to the social interactions he will have to deal with later when he grows up.
But if Tara had to worry about how well Corey gets along with other people, some of her fears were alleviated when she realized how well he got along in his old neighborhood on Avenue C, where he was a very popular visitor to local stores. Merchants knew him and liked him, his personality even at five years old, winning them over with a big smile and a twinkle in his eyes. Merchants gave him cookies and other treats.
“His personality blows everybody away,” Tara said.
Corey has wanted to be a doctor since he was two years old. Outside of Robinson school, however, he saw a patrol cop and said he wanted to be a police officer.
“But you said you wanted to be a doctor,” Tara reminded him with a laugh.
“I want to be a police officer and a doctor,” Corey said, matter-of-factly.
Corey talked at seven months old and intends to go to college.
“He dances, he sings,” Tara said. “He sings `Somewhere over the rainbow” and he’s funny, too.”
Tara said she brought Corey back to Bayonne from Arizona so that he could be closer to his extended family.
Tara’s daughter just started at Bayonne High School, so going to school is something of a family adventure.
Corey already has his school uniform, his backpack, and his lunchbox. While he will still need an aide at school, he has a good attitude, complaining a little after his first day that the teacher didn’t call on him to read.
“I can read, you know,” he said.
Ironically, Corey has the same teacher Tara had when she attended Robinson School.
“It’s not something I expected,” Tara said.
She describes her son as a blessing.
“He is a darling and altruistic spirit who gracefully drifted into our lives five years ago,” Tara said. “Encore was chosen to walk his life’s journey as a little person on a whale of a mission.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.