China Waiting Children: Special Needs Spotlight on Dwarfism

Let me tell you a little about Leo. I recently came across Leo’s file when I was searching China’s shared list of children available for adoption. My specific search was for “limb differences” because we have several families who are hoping to adopt children with this need. When I saw Leo’s picture, I wanted to learn more. His file specifically states “limb and trunk deformities” while it appears that his true diagnosis is likely dwarfism. I saw the sweet face of eleven year old Leo in pictures of him riding a bike and playing on the slide and wondered how this boy has waited so long for a family.

Little People of America defines dwarfism as “a medical or genetic condition that usually results in an adult height of 4'10" or shorter, among both men and women, although in some cases a person with a dwarfing condition may be slightly taller than that. The average height of an adult with dwarfism is 4’0, but typical heights range from 2’8 to 4’8.” There are several different types of dwarfism, with the most common being achondroplasia, spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, and diastrophic dysplasia. You can read more about the different types of dwarfism on WebMD.

A concern with adopting a child with dwarfism is what life looks like from a medical standpoint. Little People of America states, “It varies from condition to condition, and with the severity of that condition in each individual. However, the majority of LPs enjoy normal intelligence, normal life spans, and reasonably good health. Many will require surgeries or other medical interventions to address complications and maximize mobility.

Orthopedic complications are not unusual in people with disproportionate dwarfism such as achondroplasia and diastrophic dysplasia, and sometimes surgery is required. A common problem, especially in adults, is spinal stenosis -- a condition in which the opening in the spinal column is too small to accommodate the spinal cord. People with this condition suffer from numbness and/or pain. It can be treated with a type of surgery called a laminectomy.”

International Adoption Net recommends that all families talk to a licensed pediatrician or international adoption clinic for all medical advice and information when considering a child for adoption. Families are approved for children with medical conditions on a case by case basis after reviewing the family's qualifications as best determined by the placement agency.

Now back to Leo! Leo is initially shy with adults or unfamiliar people. He listens carefully, and he is thoughtful about his response. However, he really comes out of his shell around his classmates and peers. He is outgoing around other children, and in his school environment, he answers questions eagerly and loudly. Leo’s fine and gross motor skills are great. He can walk on a balance beam, use his fingers deftly, hold scissors well, and he completes all sorts of tasks such as drawing patterns and folding paper. He enjoys art and origami, but jigsaw puzzles are his favorite. He can use open ended toys such as blocks, legos, and such to create all sorts of things. He is very creative. All of his peers care for him greatly, as he is always met with a hug and teasing from his friends.

Leo’s face is always filled with a happy smile. He is good at hands-on activities, and his painting ability is admirable. After watching an art video, the teacher provides animal pictures, and Leo can imitate the pictures well with careful attention to detail. Leo grasps new knowledge quickly, and his concentration

and learning ability are greater than his peers. Leo is a team leader in class, and he enjoys assisting the teachers. Over the years, his language skills and confidence have grown greatly.

Want to learn more about Leo? Email Brandie. We have several pictures of Leo to share with families who are considering adopting him!

Little People of America offers a $1,000 retroactive grant to families adopting a child with dwarfism, and a $5,000 retroactive grant to families adopting a boy with dwarfism age 11 or older. You can find a wealth of medical information and support, as well as links to regional skeletal dysplasia clinics, at Little People of America.

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