Causes of Dwarfism

Have you observed how everyone has a different height? Throughout the day, you and your friends may line up for recess, lunch, or games. Some children are taller, some are average height, and some are shorter. Just like young people, adults come in all different sizes!

Parents and doctors measure the growth of children from birth. They use charts to track if children are growing between check-ups. Sometimes, a child’s height is behind their peers. When questions arise, adults may conduct tests to find medical answers.

Dwarfism is a condition where an adult is not taller than four feet, ten inches. There are two types of dwarfism – proportionate and disproportionate. Estimates show that 2.5 percent of U.S. adults fit this definition. Many of these individuals prefer to be referred to as little people or people of short stature.

Proportionate dwarfs are individuals of short stature whose heads and limbs are in proportion with the rest of their body. This type of dwarfism is often caused by conditions that restrict growth before puberty.

Disproportionate dwarfism is characterized by a person of short stature who has a head and/or limbs that do not seem to fit with the rest of their body. Doctors usually identify this type of dwarfism by observing physical attributes at birth.

There are several factors that can cause growth issues. Childhood growth can be hindered by poor nutrition, inherited genes, or other factors. Insufficient growth hormone can also result in stunted height. There are over 100 conditions that can lead to dwarfism. Children suspected to have dwarfism may undergo X-rays, genetic testing, or MRI studies. In many cases, the cause remains unknown.

Some types of dwarfism can be treated by doctors. Growth hormones may be administered through injections. This treatment usually spans several years. Surgeries to lengthen and straighten bones are also an option. However, more commonly, doctors provide support to manage the other health issues associated with dwarfism.

Children with dwarfism may require treatment for various issues. Vision problems, joint issues, bone problems, and other health complications can accompany a dwarfism diagnosis. Little people generally have normal lifespans. They also tend to learn at the same pace as their peers of the same age.

Families with little people should consider making adjustments to their living conditions. Little people are capable of performing most daily tasks. They should receive support that corresponds to their age and ability level. They may need assistive devices like crutches, step stools, and switch extenders. Parenting adults can and should encourage independence.

Adaptive strategies are important for individuals of all ages and stages who have dwarfism. Dwarf children in school may require smaller instruments in order to participate in a band. Adults teaching little people how to drive may need to provide pedal extensions for the car. Adult little people also want to be able to wear clothes that are not designed for children.

Do you know someone who is a little person? What activities do you enjoy doing with your friend? If you have never met a little person, what is one question you might ask if you ever meet someone of short stature? What would you like them to know about you? What might be the first thing you do together? Everyone is unique, and we should celebrate that!

Give It a Try

Differences make life interesting! Ask a friend or family member to explore the many ways in which variety adds excitement to life!

  • Take a look at the essay titled “The Power to Change Starts from Within” by Peggy O’Neill on the Little People of America website. Then, reflect on your own life. What aspects of your life can you control? Are there any changes you would like to make to yourself? Write a paragraph explaining your thoughts and share it with a friend or family member.
  • Visit your local library and see if they have any books about little people. LPA Online offers some suggestions, so choose the ones that interest you! One book you might enjoy is “Little Squarehead” by Peggy O’Neill, which also has a read-along version on YouTube. Before you start reading or listening, create a KWL Chart. You can find one on Canva or make your own. Fill in the “Know” and “Wonder” sections before you begin, and complete the “Learned” section after you finish. Share your newfound knowledge with a friend or family member.
  • Think about the things you use to make your life easier. How about your family members? Do you rely on technology to store and access phone numbers easily? Are there any personal habits or items that you use which others may not? For example, do you always place your shoes in the same spot so you can easily find them? Consider the things your friends and family use to simplify their lives or perform tasks like everyone else. Do you know anyone who uses a walker, wheelchair, or cane? These are known as accommodations, and some people require specific accommodations to participate fully in activities. Discuss with a friend or family member any accommodations you have noticed and why people might use them.

Sources of Wonder

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