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TLC reality star Matt Roloff speaks at MU for Celebrate Ability Week

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | 10:21 p.m. CDT; updated 10:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Matt Roloff, the star of the reality TV show "Little People, Big World" meets with the audience after his speech Tuesday at Jesse Hall. Roloff spoke at MU during Celebrate Ability Week hosted by Mizzou Diversity.

COLUMBIA — Matt Roloff scooted onto the stage and began his speech with an "M-I-Z."

The "Little People, Big World" star spoke Tuesday night at Jesse Auditorium at the signature event for MU's Celebrate Ability Week. A couple hundred people attended.

This is the third year the MU Office of Disability Services, the Missouri Student Association, MU Student Exceptions and One Mizzou have sponsored the week.

The week started off with wheelchair basketball, an adaptive golf demonstration, a film screening and educational forums. In the second half of the week, people can attend an accessibility fair, forums on the perspective of students and veterans, and a wheelchair obstacle course. 

After telling about the friendly competition between he and his wife, Amy, in which the two compete for more "Likes" on their Facebook posts, Roloff shared a quote that he discovered on the popular social networking website.

Roloff said: "Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny," though he told the audience to replace the word "watch" with "craft." 

He used this to guide the rest of his speech, which focused on stories from his childhood and the path that ultimately led him to his TLC reality TV show.  

At a young age, Roloff said, he could barely walk because he has a form a dwarfism, but he decided he wanted to build a fort, and eventually did. All throughout his life, Roloff went about overcoming these kinds of obstacles. Now, he builds all kinds of things, like go-karts, clubhouses and an old West-style replica town.

Roloff believes resiliency is the most undervalued "muscle" and should be constantly improved.

"Everyone has an excuse; there's all kinds of reasons to let your thoughts wander to a bad place," Roloff said. "Stop. Evaluate." 

"I challenge you to find someone who would find me getting upset about something like a missed flight," Roloff said. "Now my wife is a different story."

Roloff said it's important to embrace people who are different from you. Walk up to them at a party, he said, because normally people tend to stick with those that look like them. 

Barbara Hammer, director of the MU Office of Disability Services, said Celebrate Ability Week started in 2010 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

"At the time we didn’t plan to make it an annual event," Hammer said. "But it makes sense because it gives us an opportunity to highlight people with disabilities and their experiences."

About 1,000 students were registered with the MU Office of Disability Services last year, according to Hammer. However, she does not think that gives a full picture of the number of students with disabilities at MU because many who do not need accommodations but have a disability choose not to register.  

As a doctoral student in special education, John Monroe is required to help his patients in primary and secondary school prepare for their future. He wanted to hear Roloff speak because he is successful in creating a good life for himself.

"It's nice to see a perspective of people with disabilities," Monroe said. 

He is also a fan of the show, like many who were in attendance. 

Roloff said he wanted to do the show to educate people about dwarfism. 

“Dwarfism is a metaphor for everyone that is different," Roloff said. "I think that is what is so powerful about the show. If you can get your head around me and the show, then you can get your head around anything."

Supervising editor is Jacob Kirn.


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