The Johnstons may be small in stature, but they’re about to bring big attention to their condition and their life in Monroe County.
The family of seven, who moved to Forsyth from Lamar County last year, will star in “7 Little Johnstons,” which premieres on TLC at 10 p.m. Tuesday. The whole family, which includes three adopted children, was born with achondroplasia dwarfism.
“Our biggest message is definitely to tell our story but also to educate viewers about dwarfism,” said Amber Johnston, 35.
Amber and her 38-year-old husband, Trent, had two children, 15-year-old Jonah and 13-year-old Elizabeth, biologically. After a pair of tough pregnancies, Amber said she and Trent still wanted more children but decided to adopt from then on.
Upon further research, the couple discovered that life overseas is even tougher for little people than it is in the United States.
“In international countries, these kids are shunned from getting any kind of education,” Amber said.
The Johnstons adopted Anna, now 14, from Russia, and that drove the couple into a deeper involvement with the foreign adoption process for children with similar conditions.
“That led to finding lots and lots of kids for other families,” Amber said.
The family went on to adopt 9-year-old Alex from South Korea and 9-year-old Emma from China. Alex was described as the family’s “jokester,” while Emma was said to be a “free spirit.”
Amber said she tries not to place many limitations on her children, including school activities. While it might be easier for the children to be home-schooled because of their condition and related bullying, Amber said it is important for them to learn how to handle difficulty.
“We feel that it’s incredibly important to raise them in mainstream society,” she said, noting that both she and Trent went to public school. “They’ve got to be able to develop that thick skin, we call it.”
The mother of five said the family has had a good experience in the Monroe County school system, one of the reasons the Johnstons chose to move to Forsyth. Jonah is a student at Mary Persons High School, where he plays percussion in the band, while Anna and Elizabeth are at Banks Stephens Middle School and the two youngest are enrolled at T.G. Scott Elementary.
“Monroe County schools got a huge education in dwarfism this year,” Amber said. “It’s really not a big deal anymore.”
Amber said showing her family as a normal family was another aim of the show, adding that she hoped that would help keep her children grounded despite being on national television. That will mean viewers will see the Johnstons’ life as it really is, messes and all.
“In doing that, you’ve got to be real,” she said. “You’ve got to be everyday, ordinary people that people can relate to.”