Short Stature/Late Bloomer Update

At just 5’ 2”, I’ve always considered myself short. And while for a woman being short has its disadvantages, it seems to have more of an impact on the lives of men who are short. This is why back in 2018 when my son’s pediatrician expressed concerns about his growth, my husband and I took her advice to have him examined by a pediatric endocrinologist.

The purpose of going to this specialist was to see if Jase was simply a late bloomer or if there might be a reason he wasn’t growing as expected. Typically, doctors expect kids to grow 2 inches per year. Jase wasn’t doing this. When we went to the endocrinologist, he had just turned 13 and was 4’ 8 1/2” tall which put him in the 4% for his age.

To understand growth percentiles, think of it this way. If 100 thirteen-year-old boys stood in a room. 96 of them would be taller than Jase.  In other words, he is short.

The endocrinologist ordered blood work and a bone age scan. And while the bone scan showed a 6-month delay from his actual age, it was within a “typical range.” The blood work also showed everything was in normal ranges. The doctor felt he might just be a late bloomer.

We went back 6 month later for a follow up. Growing but still no big growth spurt. She had us come back during the summer 6 months later. At that appointment, they repeated the blood work and bone age scan. There was a testosterone increase and from a physical exam she said he was definitely in puberty (as if we didn’t know with the pimples and voice changing.) His bone age scan showed him at 13 years old when he was actually 14. Still this is within the “typical range.”

The endocrinologist felt he was on the cusp of that big grown spurt – you know the one where your kids seem to out grow their clothes overnight. Based on his blood tests and scans, she still put him at about 5’8” to 5’9” as his final height. We just needed to have him grow. So we were scheduled to come back for another follow up in another 6 months which was just last week.

He has definitely been growing as he is now 5’ 1 ¾” tall – just a hair under my height. He has grown a good 1 ¾”inches in 6 months which his doctor calculated would put him at 3 ½” for the year – right in the range they expect a boy in puberty should be gaining.

We had hoped this would be our final visit, but alas she wanted another blood test to rule out celiac disease which could be affecting his growth and could explain why he is about 12 lbs underweight. Turns out he doesn’t have celiac disease and the low weight just may be his genetics. Both my husband and brother were rail thin as teens too.

Six months ago, he was up to the 7th percentile for his age. Last week, he was up to the 13th percentile. But for weight he is barely on the chart. He should be over 100 lbs but is at 88 right now.

So, our goal for the next four months is to get him to eat some more calories and hope he jumps up in height before our next appointment. The good thing is his doctor now says we can’t call him a late bloomer as he is blooming (growing) – just still not at the rate we want.

Finding out if my son is a late bloomer or has short stature

Ever since he was a toddler, Jase has always been on the smaller side. As he grew, he seemed to have found his growth curve for height in the mid to upper twenties on the standard growth percentile scale. And then about three years ago, his growth slowed down. And now at age 13, he is only in the fourth percentile for both weight and height.

To understand growth percentiles, think of it this way. If 100 thirteen-year-old boys stood in a room. 96 of them would be taller than Jase.  In other words, he is short. In fact, his 10-year-old sister is almost as tall as he is. (And yes, I know girls often grow faster at a younger age.)

Now there is a chance that Jase is just a late bloomer and one summer (or fall) he is going to grow several inches and catch up with the other boys. But since he has dropped so low in the height percentages and has not been growing the standard two inches that doctors expect kids to grow every year, Jase’s doctor suggested we get him checked out to ensure nothing else was wrong.

So, we made an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist. Our doctor was awesome, explaining that he could be a late bloomer and how many kids have a slowdown of growth before they take off.  Both my husband and I had a few “late bloomer” traits from our own childhoods. But there were other areas to explore just to rule out any other problems. They would do a blood test to check the function of his thyroid, check hormone levels and to check for celiac disease. They also ordered a bone age test to evaluate how fast or slow his bones were maturing.

Jase was more worried about the blood draw than the bone test which is just an x-ray of his left hand and wrist. Jase had never had blood drawn or an x-ray before this. He did excellent with both tests. He didn’t seem worried about the result. Actually, he seemed happy that the doctor had noticed a little fuzz growing on his upper lip. (Looks like shaving will soon be in his future.)

A day later, we got the results from the bone age test. It showed his bones were measuring at 12 years six months, which is a standard deviation from his actual age of 13 years 1 month at the time of the test. Based on his test, his projected height will be 5 feet 8 inches. Of course, that is only a prediction and not a guarantee.

The blood test showed his thyroid was working just fine, and his level of growth hormone level was normal. Besides being a little low on vitamin D, everything checked out normal. Guess this leaves him being a late-bloomer!

Waiting for a growth spurt

Jase wasn’t a small baby. He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 22 inches at birth. In fact, in those first few months he was quite a chunky baby.

When he became a toddler, those pounds shed as he became active. And for those first few years, he was actually quite average, falling right at the 56% for height for his age.

But as he has grown, those percentages began dropping. And now at 12 years old, Jase is 55 inches which makes him in the 10th percentile for height. In other words, he is short. It means that out 100 boys, 90 of them will be taller than him.

His doctor said he is more the size of a 9-year-old. In fact, his 9-year-old sister is just 1 ½” shorter than he is. She is a bit on the tall side for her age but we know girls typically do grow quicker than boys before they hit puberty. Many times girls shoot up and reach their full height sooner than boys. My mom had reached her full height in the sixth grade. She towered over the boys but soon the boys started to grow, passing her. I have heard many stories of boys growing all the way up until they are 20 years old.

This gives us hope but genetics also plays a role in how tall Jase will be. There are quite a few short people in our family. My dad, brother and husband are all 5 foot 10 or shorter. But my father-in-law, brother-in-law and uncles are all tall (at least 6 feet or taller).

I am only 5’ 2”. My mom and mother-in-law are both about the same height as me. For women, this isn’t a problem. But there is a different stigma for men. Studies have shown that shorter men have lower salaries. And in studies, these men have also reported problems with dating. (I guess women don’t want to date someone as short or shorter than them.) Short men are often portrayed in movies as jealous (think Napoléon complex).

My husband has been quite worried about Jase being teased because he is short. So far that hasn’t happened. Thankfully, he was not the shortest boy in his class. We will just have to see what happens in middle school.

The good news for Jase is that he hasn’t hit puberty yet. My husband was about thirteen when he hit a big growth spurt. And this is what we hope comes for Jase. He may just be a late bloomer.

His doctor said at his next well-check appointment if falls below 5% on the growth chart or if he doesn’t grow at least 2” (he has been growing about 1 ½” a year), then she will request some tests to see if there is any problem. Or it could be that he is just a late bloomer and next summer he will shoot up. We will just have to wait and see.