School

Unless a child of restricted growth is severely handicapped by problems other than height alone, there should be no reason to opt for a special school. It is an important experience to attend a normal school. Generally, a short-statured child first faces an open (accepting or rejecting) environment when commencing school and is brought face to face with the responsibility for his/her own adjustment to a new world outside the home. Provided children can dress themselves and take themselves to the toilet, any problems that arise in school should be solvable by consultation between parents and teachers. It is advisable to ensure that both the head teacher and the class teacher know about any special needs before a child of restricted growth arrives at school. It is often helpful if the teacher is asked to prepare the class for the newcomer. The teacher can also be reminded to make sure that the extra small child does not get left out of activities because the others can run faster or push harder. Equally important the teacher should expect the same academic progress from that child as from the others. Whether or not a child should be assessed for special educational needs is very much an individual matter.

A very small child may need a low desk and chair in order to be comfortable, without legs dangling and chin on the desk, and should in some cases sit near the front of the class to see the teacher and blackboard properly. While participation in sports activities should be encouraged as far as possible, it should be arranged that the child need not take part when the proceedings become too rough or exhausting. It may be wise to seek medical advice if a child is eager to indulge in a great deal of physical activities.

When it becomes necessary to have books for homework, it can be helpful to have two sets, one at school and the other at home, to avoid carrying them to and fro. If a child finds difficulty, for example, in reaching the drinking fountain or in moving around from classroom to classroom in the time allotted between lessons, it may be necessary, discreetly, to make special arrangements with the teacher. The same may apply to harassment from other children, if a child cannot deal with it alone.

All discussions between teachers and parents should be conducted with the least possible fuss as the child may be embarrassed by the need for special treatment. Throughout childhood it is necessary to achieve a balance between, on the one hand, a child’s pride and determination, and on the other hand, the practical realities of everyday life. Pride is a precious quality in a child who starts out at a disadvantage and it should be treated with respect, even if it sometimes seemes to border on aggression. There are many ways in which a short-statured youngster can respond to questions, teasing or stares. A successful way seems to be a realistic, matter-of-fact attitude, giving a brief, factual answer to questions or a statement about feeling annoyed if questions persist. Some children, on the other hand, may respond to hardship and harassment by turning into clowns and inviting people to laugh at them. That should be discouraged, and the underlying cause discussed with the child. Such an attitude will not help the child to mature into an adult who commands authority and respect. A sense of humour is a great asset to people of restricted growth as long as others laugh with them and not at them. Eventually, classmates will forget the height difference and will accept your child as the unique human being he or she is. Classmates are frequently helpful toward handicapped children. However, in this situation the dangers of over protection can arise but these can be tempered where teachers are aware of the circumstances.

The school progress of children with restricted growth compares very favourably with other children in terms of learning achievement. Given helpful, interested parents and a conducive learning environment such children may acquire a greater incentive to achieve higher than average overall performance. As education progresses, a child of restricted growth should be encouraged to develop individual aptitudes and special interests and aspire to reach their fullest educational potential. While sedentary skills are obviously an advantage to any physically disadvantaged person, it is not wise to try to force a child of restricted growth into an academic student if the inclination is not there.

Outside interests

Children of restricted growth should be encouraged to participate in leisure time activities, making use of their own special abilities. For example, if there is no suitable part in the school play, there will be scenery to paint and costumes to sew. Camping, cycling, singing and dancing are all possible, and children need not automatically exclude themselves because they feel they will be a burden to everybody else. It is as important for the other children to learn to integrate the child of restricted growth as it is for that child to be involved. They will all benefit in the long term.

(Source: Information Guide to Persons of Short Stature, edited by Stephen Pinnell, pp. 11-12)

© 2014 SSPA.