Dancing to Inspire

Amy Timmerman showing off a dance pose. Photo courtesy of Amy Timmerman.

Amy Timmerman rolls her golden blonde hair into a tight bun, slips on her pale pink ballet shoes and prepares to spend hours in the Life Hall dance studios at Montclair State University every single day.

At first glance, Timmerman is an average college student. She wears many hats with her involvement at MSU balancing a daily schedule that includes class, dance practice, sorority events and duty in the Hawk Crossings office as a resident assistant. But despite her many obligations, she always finds time to share her story to those that are willing to listen.

When Timmerman was just 11-years-old, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Stargardt disease — a juvenile macular degeneration that has formed a blind spot over her line of sight and has been causing her to slowly lose her vision.

Stargardt disease affects only about three percent of people across the entire country and will often times become noticeable in early childhood, but in some cases may not begin until adulthood. The blind spot has caused Timmerman to lose her center vision while her peripheral vision remains.

Timmerman, second from the right, posing with friends before dance auditions. Photo courtesy of Amy Timmerman.

The disease is rapidly taking Timmerman’s eyesight and may one day cause her to become legally blind. When things are up close, it is easier for her to see; but when something is far away, she may not see it at all. Her friends say that she will sometimes walk right past them, unable to recognize them due to her lack of vision caused by the disease.

“It’s hard to see everything that the teacher is doing from so far away,” Timmerman said. “I can’t always keep up.”

The disease makes it hard for Timmerman to do every day things such as watching dance performances, searching the internet and even answering a text message. Her laptop and cell phone font size is set to the largest it can be so that she has an easier time reading Even then though, her visual impairment doesn’t allow these devices to be more than about three inches away from her eyes before things start to get blurry again.

Throughout the years, Timmerman has struggled with her decision to pursue dancing. While she finds happiness and expression through body movement and music, she has nearly had her dreams crushed once before. Teachers have asked her why she would choose to major in dance based on her visual impairment causing Timmerman to question her choice. But at the end of the day, it didn’t stop her.

“Amy will not let anything or anyone get in her way,” said Stephanie Schieder, a friend and sorority sister of Timmerman.

Despite the disease, Timmerman never loses sight of what matters the most to her. After college, she says she would like to perform on stage a couple more times before finally opening up a dance studio of her own. She hopes to receive a degree in dance therapy and wants to teach dance to kids with special needs.

Rather than allowing her severe visual impairment hold her back, Timmerman is determined to use her story to help and inspire others.

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