The short-statured person in society

When the parents learn that they have a child of short stature, one of their earliest concerns may be whether that child will eventually marry. It is often assumed that lack of height will be a barrier to many of the normal processes of life. Many short-statured people have shown that normal development is perfectly possible, and marriage is no exception.

A marriage may be one where both partners are short-statured, or where one is short-statured and the other of average height. These people meet and form their partnerships in the usual way. Some meet through the Short Statured People of Australia (SSPA) or in other circumstances.

While there are many happily married couples of either short or mixed stature others opt to remain single and make very satisfying and successful lives. Some become deeply immersed in work and others enthusiastically pursue outside interests. However they fill their lives, these people are fully occupied. It is always helpful to remember that life can be good without marriage. Possibly the worst of all worlds is to remain aimlessly single, convinced that life will be worthwhile only when a partner turns up. Parents can help by encouraging independence and self-sufficiency.

Attitudes of other people

However well people of short stature may be integrated into society, there will always be those of average stature who respond inappropriately. The most obvious and forgiveable group is children, who are usually merely curious when they say: ‘Look at the funny little lady’. Sometimes a parent replies with a sensible remark such as: ‘Yes dear, we are all different, some of us are small and some are tall, and some of us are very small, but it doesn’t matter’. The parent who is often embarrassed and just tells the child to be quiet, does nothing to help the child or the person of short stature. Parents can do as much to influence the way their children think about others who look different from everybody else.

Careful response

Adults are often unsure as to how they should respond to people of short stature. Some average-sized adults talk to very small adults as though they were children, or do not address them directly at all, speaking over their heads to taller companions. Others just brush aside people of short stature when introduced to them. Depending on the circumstances, this can be merely annoying, calling for no response or just a smile, or it may call for a more careful response.

People of short stature learn that on the whole a straightforward, polite reply is best. There is no benefit in being rude or making the other person feel foolish. It is necessary to be assertive but not aggressive. In queues they must speak up clearly when ignored or not noticed by a salesperson.

Integration

In any circumstances, people of short stature wishing to maximise their comfort should remember that much can be achieved with a smile. Other people do not as a rule wish them harm, but are sometimes unsure how to treat them, perhaps through embarrassment or unfamiliarity. One of the aims of the SSPA is to wipe out that unfamiliarity. People of short stature do not want to be exactly the same as everybody else. They will always need certain practical assistance, and their lives may not unfold precisely according to convention. They wish to be recognised for what they are – simply a part of the natural range of human variation.

Intelligence

It is a false assumption that a person with a growth disorder may have a low intelligence. A small body is often equated with a small brain. On the whole individuals display the same range of intelligence as the general population.

Daily and Independent Living

Within a short-statured person’s day-to-day life there are some activities that are important in helping to eliminate any unnecessary medical problems e.g. exercising regularly can help muscle tone and flexibility, by controlling your weight you can prevent obesity and ensure less strain is placed on your spine and legs. The mattress you sleep on should be firm enough to support the spine.

An important part of independence is to be involved in various activities that you are interested in. It is necessary for a short-statured person to be assertive but not aggressive, straightforward but polite driving a car or riding a bicycle can give great independence to a short-statured person. Modifications can be conveniently made to cars or bicycles to accomodate a short-statured person.

Practical and Physical Adjustments

Various steps, stools and reaching devices can be made for dealing with everyday life in the home and at work or school.

Adaptations can be made to a car to make it suitable to be driven by a short-statured person by adding pedal extensions and seat modifications.

Clothes can pose various problems for someone of short stature. Some garments can be bought and adapted to fit where others have to be made professionally to fit well. If you are fortunate to be able to sew your clothes this poses less of a problem. Often a tailor can be found that does not charge an exorbitant price and can make a good suit for small men. Shoe fitting can pose a problem too. Many people of short stature have very wide, though short feet. By searching through the available selection of children’s and adult size fitting shoes the required style, length and width a suitable pair can be found. A general practitioner can recommend shoes be made to measure by a hospital’s orthopaedic department.

By gathering together with people of short stature, helpful relative information can be exchanged and viewing adaptations others have made can benefit those concerned.

(Source: Information Guide to Persons of Short Stature, edited by Stephen Pinnell, pp. 18-19)

© 2014 SSPA.