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Who Are Little People?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Little people are dwarfs. Dwarfs are people who have dwarfism, called dysplasia, and as a result, are small in stature. Little people have a genetic or medical condition that limits their adult height to about 4'10 inches (147 cm) or less for men and 4'7 inches (139 cm) or less for women.

Dysplasia, or dwarfism, usually causes different configurations of the face or head. These persons also usually have disproportionate limbs and abnormal bone growth. Some persons suffer painful disabilities due to these problems. Achondroplasia, spondyloephiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED), hypochondroplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), pseudoachondroplasia and diastrophic dysplasia are genetic disorders that commonly cause dwarfism.

Achondroplasia is commonly associated with shortened limbs in dwarfism. It is usually diagnosed at birth and results in delayed motor skills. Persons with SED usually have limbs in proportion to their height, but the trunk area is usually shortened. Hypochondroplasia causes shortened limbs but is often a milder and more gradual form of dwarfism than achondroplasia and is not usually diagnosed until the child is a toddler as length and weight are often normal at birth.

Persons with OI have a genetic disorder that limits type one collagen production or quality of collagen produced. People with OI have bones that can be easily broken. Pseudoachondroplasia is associated with shortened-limbs in little people and, like hypochondroplasia, is often too mild and gradual to be diagnosed at birth, but is usually diagnosed when the child is a toddler. Persons with pseudoachondroplasia tend to have a wobbly sort of movement when walking.

Diastrophic dysplasia is associated with shortened limbs and club feet in these persons and is usually diagnosed at birth. Swollen ears, and a "hitch hiker's thumb" are common signs of diastropic dysplasia that are present at birth. Parents that have produced one child with diastrophic dysplasia have a 25% chance of having other children with diastrophic dysplasia.

Little People of America is an non-profit organization that provides support for those with dwarfism and their families. Matt Roloff, a star of the television reality show "Little People, Big World" on The Learning Channel (TLC), is a former president of Little People of America. The television program follows the lives of Matt, his wife Amy and their four children Zachary, Jeremy, Molly and Jacob.

Zachary and Jeremy are twins. Jeremy is average height and Zachary has achondroplasia dwarfism. Both Molly and Jacob are average height. Matt has diastrohpic dysplasia and Amy has achondroplasia like Zachary. Matt uses crutches and motorized equipment to help him get around and spent a great deal of his childhood in hospitals. Amy has had relatively few medical problems, but Zachary is starting to have some complications. "Little People, Big World" shows the Roloffs are a normal family. As Amy says at the beginning of the show "Little people can basically do everything other people can, just in a different way."

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Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Aug 29, 2014

It should be noted that "little people," "little person" or "LP" are the acceptable terms for these persons. While many little people are OK with the term "dwarf" as long as it is used in connection with their form of dwarfism, the word "midget" is considered highly pejorative and insulting and should never be used when referring to, or in connection with, a little person. "Midget" has sideshow/freakshow connotations and is not appropriate. It is considered to be as insulting as any racial slur.

Using the term "little person" is almost always the correct means of addressing or describing these people who have a form of dwarfism.

By Scrbblchick — On Aug 28, 2014

I'm glad shows like the one about the Roloffs and "The Little Couple" have become so popular, along with actors like Vern Troyer and Peter Dinklage having increased visibility. It does show that these people are able to do what average-sized people can do. Jen on "The Little Couple" is a neonatologist in a Houston hospital. She cares for the tiniest preemies. It's very brave of them to allow the public into their private lives, but they're good people and present such a positive image of family life.

Sure, they have their problems, and I read recently where the Roloffs have separated, but overall, they show people how they can do nearly anything an average sized person can do. I find them inspirational.

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