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InFocus By Carole Lander Stature of liberty The Short Statured People of Australia (SSPA) celebrated its 50th anniversary at its annual convention late last year. Members of this support group live with various conditions of skeletal dysplasia and dwarfism. One of them is Rose Hobbs who initiated the organisation in 1967 with her then husband George Whittaker. R She is involved in current Australian research that will lead to better assessment and understanding of the mobility, pain and tiredness challenges faced by some short- statured people. Convention participants were invited to volunteer for balance, joint range and leg strength testing. Samuel Millard, current president of the SSPA, reported to the annual general meeting on his recent visit to ose Hobbs (pictured right) in 1967, has worked closely with Berlin for the first ever International was born in 1947 with the medical practitioners and lobbying Dwarfism Summit. condition of achondroplasia governments to improve conditions at a time when very little was known about dwarfism. When she was 15, a for people with disability. That first convention was attended “The biggest thing about this summit was recognising how similar the associations across the world are UK touring company came to Sydney by 50 people, and at the 2017 and how so many of the same issues with the show Snow White and the convention held at Myuna Recreation come up for everyone,” he said. Seven Dwarfs. Centre near Newcastle, there were “My parents took me to see it and that made a huge change in my life,” 210 people of all ages. One regular feature is a medical Samuel said the Australian SSPA has a lot in common with Canada and the United States of America – both Rose said. “I was taken backstage advisory day where participants learn huge continents where distance can afterwards to meet the actors playing about the latest developments in be a challenge to communication the dwarfs. I went to see the show skeletal dysplasia and related topics. between members. several times, just to remind myself “The conventions offer a great “Since only one in eight to twelve that I was not the only short person opportunity for parents of short- thousand babies are born annually in the world.” statured babies and young children to with a condition of dwarfism, clearly find out what lies ahead,” said Maree there is a great need for support Jenner, who organised the day. groups such as SSPA, Little People One of the actors was George Whittaker and after they married, Rose joined George on tours of The medical team from Westmead of America (LPA), LPC (Little People Australia and New Zealand. In Hospital was in attendance to advise of Canada), Little People UK and Auckland, they met a 10-year-old girl on healthy living with short stature, Restricted Growth Association UK,” whose short stature had reduced her sleep and breathing, and the latest he said. self-esteem to such an extent that developments in the drug Vosoritide, her school grades were suffering. which is being trialled across the After spending some time world. It acts on the growth plate “This is where websites and social media are so important.” Back in the 1960s these forms with Rose and her family, the girl of growing children and may be of communication didn’t exist. blossomed and this was the impetus useful in decreasing or stopping the However, Rose and George for Rose and George to start what was abnormal signals that cause bone Whittaker were delighted when, then called Little People of Australia. growth problems. two years after that first convention, The new organisation provided 30 being monitored from a young age. Dr Penny Ireland, a Brisbane individual state associations started support and education for short- physiotherapist, gave a talk about up, organising events during the year statured Australians and since its allied health professional support in addition to the annual national first convention in Port Macquarie and the importance of children convention. infocus