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Who are Little People?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2014
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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 in little people. Little people also usually have disproportionate limbs and abnormal bone growth. Some little people 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. Little people 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.

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Little people with OI have a genetic disorder that limits type one collagen production or quality of collagen produced. Dwarfs 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. Little people with pseudoachondroplasia tend to have a wobbly sort of movement when walking.

Diastrophic dysplasia is associated with shortened limbs and club feet in little people 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. "Little People, Big World" 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 has 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 that 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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