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Think. Discuss. Act. Disabled Youth

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Borgman, D. (1986). Dwarfs. S. Hamilton, MA: Center for Youth Studies.


Dwarfs are handicapped only from the standpoint of taller people. Charles Bedlow is 4’6″ and has been an advocate for little people for 24 years. He has served as president, vice-president and treasurer of the organization, Little People of America, Inc. Coordinating headquarters between his town of Owatonna, Minnesota and San Bruno, California, Bedlow believes that the biggest problem of little people is the way in which they are perceived by others.

Notes Bedlow:

People don’t know how to approach us. Since the public isn’t too aware of us, they have a more stand-offish approach…If you’ve never had height, you’ll never miss what you don’t have. Asking how it feels to be short is like asking how it feels to be brunette…Our friends are average-sized people. Our house is not scaled down. We live in an average-sized world.

Bedlow, 50, is married to a very attractive small person and has two dwarf children. He admits the pain Jill, 17, and Jack, 12, face. “If you can go through school without getting too discouraged, it helps. School is very traumatic. Everything is: ‘How attractive am I compared to others?’ The seventh grade through the senior year are the most devastating. Back in college, nobody gives a rip again. You’re there for an education.”

Charles and Sally Bedlow took very seriously the job of preparing their children for school. On the first day of kindergarten, young Jill stood up and told her curious fellow students, “My name is Jill Bedlow. The reason I am so short is because I’m a dwarf. If you have any questions about that, please see me after class.”

The Bedlows knew that they had a 50/50 chance of having average-sized children. Charles states, “Like anyone else, we hoped they would be average size, but they weren’t. I don’t consider myself abnormal, and I don’t consider them abnormal either.”

Bedlow, a supervisor for Federated Insurance Companies, says there are about one hundred different kinds of dwarfs. Several diseases and disorders can cause short stature-and these may produce a variety of other physical disabilities. Persons subject to such diseases may have to undergo corrective surgery and straightening operations on legs and backs. Many small people are healthy results of genetic variation. Charles Bedlow’s father was one of eleven children and the first dwarf in his family.


  1. Children who are dwarfs need special support during school years-especially in the first two years of school and through junior and senior high.
  2. Teachers and youth leaders should welcome children different from the norm. They are often people eager for supportive relationships and who challenge others to surmount the superficial values of our society and its youth subculture.
  3. Youth work needs to meet the specific needs of special people and use them as resources in building new faith communities among the young.

Dean Borgman
© 2018 CYS

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