Dwarfism is a medical condition that is not fully understood by the public at large. In fact dwarfs or people of short stature are often made fun of and are sometimes portrayed in an unflattering way in the entertainment world. One result of this has been stereotyping of dwarfs in modern movies or other performance roles. However, if environmental barriers are minimised, people born with a condition of dwarfism have the ability to accomplish as much as an average size person, whether in the real world or the world of entertainment.
October has been declared National Dwarfism Awareness Month. The Short Statured People of Australia (SSPA) is the national support organisation for people with conditions of dwarfism, their families and other interested members of the community. The SSPA is made up of volunteers who aim to educate their members and the community, provide peer and parent support, participate in programs that benefit the dwarfism community and promote the achievements of people with dwarfism.
- a disease that requires a “cure” – most people with a condition of dwarfism live long, fulfilling lives
- a reason to assume someone is incapable. People with dwarfism go to school, go to work, find partners and raise children, just like their average-size peers.
- there are over 200 distinct forms of dwarfism and skeletal dysplasia’s
- 80% of people with dwarfism have average-height parents and siblings
- there are estimated to be 651,000 persons internationally with a condition of dwarfism
- dwarfism affects bone growth, not cognitive abilities.
- The most common condition of dwarfism is achondroplasia, a genetic disorder that results in disproportionate short arms and legs. The average height of adults with achondroplasia is 4 foot.
- Other relatively common genetic conditions that result in disproportionate short stature include spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED), diastrophic dysplasia, pseudoachondroplasia, hypochondroplasia, and osteogenesis imperfecta (OI).
Achondroplasia affects approximately 1 in every 20,000 births, with today’s population in Australia, it is estimated that there are over 1,100 people with achondroplasia.
No-one is to blame for a child born with dwarfism. Often, a gene just mutates and causes a dwarf child. In fact approximately 80% of people with achondroplasia are the first ones in their family with it. It results from a spontaneous mutation and can happen in any pregnancy. Males and females are at equal risk. For parents with a form of dwarfism, who have a child – the odds are much greater that their child will have a condition of dwarfism as well.
What are the biggest challenges facing people with short stature?
For people born with a condition of dwarfism, the challenge is to be accepted and integrated into everyday society.
Lack of knowledge and information:
Generally, there is insufficient knowledge about dwarfism, its causes, complications, challenges and the capabilities of people affected with dwarfism, as well as how society needs to respond. This lack of knowledge has driven speculation and superstition about dwarfism, enabling discrimination.
What is the acceptable way of referring to people with short stature?
Most people prefer people with short stature, but some people are happy to be called dwarfs, or little people. However, “midget” is considered offensive by the majority. Most of all, people like to be called by their names!
Can short statured people be productive in other professions rather than entertainment and comedy?
People with dwarfism have all sorts of different jobs: teachers, geneticists, therapists, brick layers, lawyers, electricians, gardeners, waiters, doctors, veterinary assistants, kindergarten teachers, as well as actors and entertainers!
Can short statured people participate in sporting activities?
Sports and activities are good exercise for all people. However, because of orthopaedic problems certain rough contact sports aren’t recommended due to bone and joint issues.
Can a person with short stature become a parent?
Can a short statured person drive a car?
Download the flyer clicking on the following link:
Print off the Dwarfism Awareness flyer from here and ask if you can place it on the window of your local library, milk bar, news agency, school, university and help spread the word about Dwarfism Awareness.