Most healthy children between the ages of four and 10 grow about five centimeters a year. Parents often notice this growth by how quickly their children grow out of their clothes and shoes.

However, when a child does not reach usual growth markers, it could be a sign of a health problem.

Spencer Baehman is a boy who loves to play baseball.

But at age 11, he was much shorter than everyone on his team. Although his small size did not stop Spencer from playing the sport he loves, it did make him feel different.

At first, Spencer's parents thought their son was just small. But over time, they began to worry that something was wrong.

When springtime came around and baseball season started, Spencer tried on his old cleats – a type of sports shoe. They still easily fit on his feet.

"It really set in one year coming out of winter into spring when he got out his cleats for spring baseball and he put them on, and they fit. And they never should have fit. Those were from the spring prior."

Spencer's parents went to see Dr. Bert Bachrach.  After much measuring and testing, Dr. Bachrach found the cause of Spencer’s growth failure: a growth hormone deficiency

Hormones are chemicals in the body.  Growth hormones are necessary for physical growth in children. The levels are highest during puberty.

Growth hormone just doesn't affect your growth, it affects your muscle mass and fat distribution. So that affects your cholesterol. It also affects your overall sense of well-being.

Growth hormone deficiency is a disorder involving the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is small – about the size of a pea. It is located at the base of the brain. 

Several things can affect the pituitary gland’s ability to produce growth hormones.

Growth hormone deficiency is mainly the result of damage to the pituitary gland, or hypothalamus, while the fetus is growing in the mother’s womb. It can also happen as a result of a genetic mutation.

And in some cases, children who severely lack emotional and social experiences do not produce enough growth hormone and stop growing. These children often start growing again when they begin receiving the care and human interaction they need.

In Spencer’s case, he needed daily hormone injections. His mother has been giving him the injection every day for the past two years. In that time, Spencer has grown about 15 centimeters.

 Saying in his hat says HDMH -- which means ‘height doesn't measure heart’.

When used this way, “heart” means bravery, determination and emotional strength -- all things that Spencer is not in short supply of.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.


prior (adj.) -  existing earlier in time


deficiency (n.) - a lack of something that is needed : the state of not having enough of something necessary


puberty (n.) - the period of life when a person's sexual organs mature and he or she becomes able to have children


distribution (n.) - the act of giving or delivering something to people


pea (n.) - a small, round, green seed that is eaten as a vegetable and that is formed in a seed case (called a pod) of a climbing plant; also : a plant that produces peas


mutation (n.) - a change in a gene or the resulting new trait it produces in an individual


womb (n.) - uterus



Exercise 2 


Answer these questions about the article.


  1. How fast are children growing between ages 4 and 10?
  2. When are growth hormones at the highest levels?
  3. How big is the petuitary gland?
  4. What is written inside of Spencer´s hat?



Exercise 3

Fill in the blanks

Fill in the blanks with the correct word listed below.

mutation, womb, prior, puberty


  1. ________ can be causes of many disorders.
  2. Your decisions can be influenced by _______ experiences.
  3. Baby developes inside of the ________.
  4. Children are growing fast when in _________.



Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.


  1. How tall are you?
  2. Would you like to be taller/shorter?
  3. Do you think irregular growing is a common problem today?
  4. Do you think playing basketball can make you taller?


This lesson is based on a news article originally published by learningenglish.voanews.