Family and Community Inspires Special Needs Woman to Reach for the Stars

Nothing will keep Kyleigh LaRavann Dirton from achieving her dreams. Born with meningitis, Kyleigh was diagnosed with autism, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and seizure disorders as a young girl. Her parents were told by doctors that her chance of walking, talking, or having any type of normal life was slim.  But they didn’t know Kyleigh. And they didn’t know she would have a team of people ready to help shape her.

Family and Community Inspires Special Needs Woman to Reach for the Stars

When Kyleigh was a toddler, her father, Chris, worked every day on her language skills by getting her to repeat words, allowing her to learn to communicate. Her family enrolled her in physical and occupational therapy which has allowed her to function well with assistance. It wasn’t long before Kyleigh had a dream: to become a professional model.

At 24 years old, Kyleigh lives with her family who supports her aspirations.  Her dad keeps her laughing every day and affectionately calls her his “Little Princess,” while Kyleigh spends her time with her mother, Tawana, working on her modeling skills.  She aspires to become a print model and appear as an extra in movies. Kyleigh says her goal is to become a Victoria Secret model, meet famous celebrities, and be on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Kyleigh has always been excited about participating in special events and meeting new people—especially those that helped her increase her physical and verbal skills.  At Woodmont High School in Greenville, SC, she had some wonderful peer tutors and an awesome high school teacher, Mr. Maddux. He taught Kyleigh social skills, developmental skills, and life skills for seven years. They remain friends, today.

Every therapy and experience has helped Kaleigh to develop and gain the skills she needed to grow. For example, she was vice president of the Impact Club, an activists group that supports positive activities for special needs individuals, which allowed her to do community service and increase her social skills.  She joined a cheerleader quad called the Greenville Starz, which helped her with her ability to follow direction while developing her communication and physical skills. And Kyleigh competed and won Gold and Bronze medals with Special Olympics of SC many times.

One particular event that helped shaped and inspires Kaleigh was her high school prom that she attended with her special needs class. Imagine her surprise when she heard her name announced and was crowned Woodmont High School Prom Queen 2015, not just for special needs, but for the entire student body.

Kyleigh was already popular in high school, but her win changed her life in such a positive way. It showed her she could accomplish anything she set her mind to with the support and love of family and friends.  She loved and appreciated all of her peer tutors and her high school friends. They were very loving and attentive to Kyleigh’s needs and over the years have taken her to dinner, bowling and skating, which has allowed her verbal communication to increase and active in the community.

Family support has also influenced Kyleigh, from her amazing grandparents, aunts, and uncles to her enthusiastic cousins who fills her life with special memories, love, and joy. Close to her heart is her 21-year-old brother Cameron who is studying to become a physical therapist. Cameron is a huge supporter of his sister and is always uplifting Kyleigh to follow her dreams and shoot for the stars.

This article was featured in Issue 72 – Sensory Solutions For Life

Amy KD Tobik

Amy KD Tobik, Editor-in-Chief of Autism Parenting Magazine, has more than 30 years of experience as a published writer and editor. A graduate of Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Amy’s background includes magazine, newspaper, and book publishing. As a special needs advocate and editor, she coordinates with more than 300 doctors, autism specialists, and researchers to ensure people diagnosed with autism receive the services and supports they need for life. She has two adult children and lives in the Carolinas with her husband.

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