Chaiya will not let disabilities hold her back

  • Fighting the odds: Chaiya Smith-Dyer, 16, left, upholds outstanding grades in spite of learning and personal challenges she faced along the way. Also featured is her mother, Safiya Dyer. (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)

    Fighting the odds: Chaiya Smith-Dyer, 16, left, upholds outstanding grades in spite of learning and personal challenges she faced along the way. Also featured is her mother, Safiya Dyer. (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)

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    Young Achievers logo


Chaiya Smith-Dyer has worked tirelessly to ensure that she is not defined by her disabilities.

The 16-year-old CedarBridge Academy pupil has made the Principal’s High Honours list, an honour reserved for students with a grade-point average above 90 per cent, for the second time this year.

This success follows a seven-year record of being on the honour roll throughout middle and high school.

Chaiya said: “At first, I thought ‘this doesn’t seem right’, so I went and checked my grades.

“But sure enough, I had enough to make the Principal’s High Honours.”

Chaiya’s mother, Safiya Dyer, said that her daughter managed to achieve a 90.4 per cent average despite suffering from dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and non-verbal learning disorder, which makes unspoken cues difficult to understand.

She added that Chaiya’s struggles were brought on by Turner syndrome, which happens when an X chromosome in girls is partially or completely missing and creates developmental challenges.

Ms Dyer said: “Her main weak spot is math — she can’t understand abstract concepts, so if it can’t be put into something concrete that is very relatable to her in every circumstance then she has a hard time grasping it.

“When it comes to exams, you can see her struggle as well — she can tell you what’s going on, but when she has to sit in an exam and try to gather all those thoughts and put them into writing, it’s extremely hard.”

Chaiya said that she combated her learning challenges by frequently asking questions during class and studying heavily.

She added that would often ask friends and classmates to help her understand difficult concepts.

Chaiya said: “My friends keep me motivated to do well, but I also want to get good grades and do as well as I can.”

Ms Dyer said that her daughter’s condition has led to more challenges, such as type 1 diabetes caused by pancreatic failure.

She added that the diagnosis, which she received about a year ago, resulted in Chaiya struggling with bouts of depression and anxiety.

Ms Dyer said: “It was hard on us as a family because we didn’t know how to really support her — we just wanted it to go away and she just wanted it to go away.”

Despite this, Chaiya said that she managed to cope with her issues with the help of her family and close friends.

Ms Dyer said that she was extremely proud of her daughter’s dedication, work ethic and bravery.

She added: “She has to work hard for what she wants and I don’t think a lot of people see the amount of effort she has to put in behind the scenes.”

Chaiya said that she wanted to educate people about Turner syndrome and inspire others to come forward with their stories.

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Published Mar 2, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 2, 2020 at 8:02 am)

Chaiya will not let disabilities hold her back

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