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The Short Child    by Paul Kaplowitz & Jeffrey Barron order for
Short Child
by Paul Kaplowitz
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Drs. Kaplowitz and Barron, authors of The Short Child, tell us that their book is 'for parents who are seeking information, trying to understand why their child is short, whether there is an underlying medical problem, how they can optimize growth, and whether their child should be receiving medical treatment.' They present in clear and accessible language, each chapter ending with a summation of Key Points to Keep in Mind.

The book begins with a discussion of the Normal Pattern of Growth, in which the authors emphasize the variation in tempo of growth (which they compare to musical tempo) and physical maturation amongst children. They discuss differences between boys and girls, including timing of growth spurts (which can peak at about 3 or 4 inches per year). They also explain how genetics, nutrition and general health, and hormones all regulate a child's growth. Detailed charts and tables accompany the explanations.

The chapter of most interest to concerned parents asks Is My Child's Growth Normal? In it the authors explain how to assess growth charts and height and weight percentiles for abnormality considering factors like growth rate and family background, and suggest when it's appropriate to consult a physician.

In subsequent chapters they discuss bone age measurements ('Children with a slow tempo of maturation tend to have a delayed bone age'); catch-up growth after chronic illness; the many causes of short stature including underlying disorders (fortunately a minority of cases); the Physical, Social, and Psychological Impact of Short Stature and common sense suggestions for parents to help children cope better; dealing with specialists; the complexity of diagnosis of growth hormone deficiency; possible treatments of short stature; and the controversy and risks of growth hormone treatments.

Since one of my sons is very late in his adolescent growth spurt (and was always low in the growth charts anyway) this book was very welcome (and reassuring) to me. Reading it and after a great deal of anxiety, I am convinced that he simply has a slow growth tempo, but I will keep it handy as an invaluable reference in case that proves not to be the case. I recommend The Short Child as essential reading for any parent who worries about whether a son's or daughter's growth is progressing normally.

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