Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘The doctors said I had a chromosome disorder, and I wouldn’t be able to walk or talk. Somehow, I proved them wrong.’

Dix Hills

“I was born with a rare chromosome disorder called chromosome 18q deletion. It occurs when the long arm (q) of chromosome 18 is missing. Some of the features are low muscle tone and hearing loss. I was also born with clubfoot, which is a deformed foot that is twisted so the sole cannot be placed flat on the ground. They found out I had clubfoot during an ultrasound when I was in my mom’s stomach.

“When I was 3 months old, my face was pale, and I had to go to the emergency room. They did blood tests and said that everything was fine and to go home. My mom insisted that there was something wrong – and she was right.

If everyone looked the same, the world would be so boring.

“When I was 2 years old, I got help from my mom’s best friend to help me talk. I’ve had 12 surgeries: Five of them were because of my clubfoot. I used to wear hearing aids when I was 5 years old. When I was in seventh grade, I was getting my bat mitzvah invitations, and after we got them, I started mumbling words, had numbness in my arm, and I couldn’t walk straight. I went to the hospital, and they found out I had migraines. I’ve had to do occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech classes.

“Going into high school was a real struggle for me; I have a learning disability, so some of the work was very hard. But in 2020, I graduated with a Regents diploma. I went to the College of Mount Saint Vincent bridge program for two years, and I did a lot during my time there: I was the social media coordinator for Best Buddies, I was the director of communications for the club’s activities board, I sang at two shows, and I was also a model for a club I was in.

“One big achievement is my Instagram account, @disabilitiesunite, which I founded so people with disabilities can find friends just like them. My parents always used to tell me that everyone is different. If everyone looked the same, the world would be so boring. When I was in fourth grade, I had to write a sentence with the word “unique.” My mom helped me, and I wrote, ‘I am Sydney and I am unique.’ Now, if ever I feel different and I’m not happy with myself, I always think of that sentence.”

Interviewed by Hannah Fusaro