Amy is still my little girl

TOWERING above her schoolchums, young Amy Knight has always looked deceptively older than her years. The Ipswich ten-year-old's plight was featured in The Evening Star yesterday after she was put off a bus because she looked so much older than her child fare.

By Tracey Sparling

TOWERING above her schoolchums, young Amy Knight has always looked deceptively older than her years.

The Ipswich ten-year-old's plight was featured in The Evening Star yesterday after she was put off a bus because she looked so much older than her child fare.

Incidents such as this have plagued Amy's young life.


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Today, health and education editor Tracey Sparling discovers what daily challenges Amy's remarkable height have brought her.

EVER since she emerged into childhood from toddler status, people have made the same mistake about Amy Knight.

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Pulling herself upright and walking tall, head and shoulders above her friends, young Amy refused to stoop to hide her remarkable height.

As the years went by, she continued to grow... and grow.

New teachers must have been left wondering if she was in the right class, bus drivers charged her the wrong fare, and people in the street innocently mistook her for an adult.

Now she measures up at 5ft 7in, taller than many celebrities – yet she's still only ten years old and has another year left as a pupil at St Pancras Primary School. The average height for a ten-year-old girl is 4ft 11in.

Apart from genetics, the secret of Amy's stature remains a mystery, as her mum Mary, 33, said she didn't have a head start in life.

Mrs Knight said: "She was only 7lb 11oz when she was born, but she just kept growing.

"By the age of two she was already tall for her age, and she was nearly as tall as some adults by the age of eight. When aged four she walked on to a bus with us, the driver didn't believe she was too young to pay."

Amy's dad, Claude, stands 6ft 1in tall, and at 5ft 9ins, Mrs Knight can identify with her daughter's problem because she was mistaken for being older when she was in high school.

Amy, of Swinburne Road, Ipswich, said: "I don't mind being tall, but there are some bad things about it."

The slur on her honesty, as people doubt her claim to be ten, is one of the worst aspects.

She said: "I tell them my date of birth and they still don't believe me. I feel like I'm being called a liar and it's not fair."

But despite being the tallest in her school, Amy admitted she had been bullied in the past, and she hasn't grown up with a tough attitude to match her stature.

Mrs Knight said: "She's a gentle giant, really."

Getting clothes and especially school shoes is the other big problem.

Mrs Knight said: "She has to have a size 14 in women's clothes instead of the usual school uniform, so it can be difficult finding things of the right style, which don't make her look too old for her years."

Amy, who insisted she can get into size eight shoes, said: "I like SClub7, but I can't get into any of the clothes, apart from the skirt. The biggest size is age nine-ten which all my friends can get."

On the subject of boyfriends she won't be drawn, but suffice it to say she has one –slightly shorter than herself.

She stands head and shoulders over her best friend Lauren Garrett and said: "They are starting to catch up now."

There are advantages of being so tall, especially when it comes to sports.

Amy is top of the class – literally! – when competing in the long-jump, running and basketball, along with another tall pupil with whom she teams up.

People have told her she ought to be a model, which can't be bad for any ten-year-old's self-esteem.

Hopefully the bus issue has been solved now.

Mrs Knight said Ipswich Buses have agreed to issue Amy with a special identity card to prove her age, so bus drivers will never have to doubt her again.

FACTFILE:

A Who's who of stars who are 5fy 7ins include Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Martina Hingis, Emma Thompson and Oprah Winfrey.

Even if Amy keeps growing at her current rate, she has a long way to go to beat any records:

Australia's human "Thorpedo" Ian Thorpe has size-17 feet, which powered him to victory at the Commonwealth Games.

Matthew McGrory in Florida, USA at 7ft 4ins needs size 28.5s, costing $22,745 a pair.

The world's tallest living woman is Sandy Allen at 7ft 7ins, who was born in Indiana, USA in 1955.

She measured 6ft 3ins by the age of ten, and 7ft 1in by 16, and kept growing until an operation in 1977 to remove her pituitary gland.

People in the Netherlands are the tallest in the world, with the average man just over 6ft, and woman just over 5ft 7ins. Next tallest are Scandinavians whose height has been the same, on average, for 40 years.

The average height for an early 17th century English man was 5ft 6ins, and women 5.5ft, but as standards of living and nutrition have improved, the average Briton has got taller at the rate of 0.75 inches a generation.

The average British man was up to 5ft7ins by 1988, and now average 5ft 9-10ins.

Official Health of the Nation figures show 30 per cent of men under 25 are now over 6ft tall.

If the current trend continues the average British man's height will be 6ft within a couple of generations and the average woman will be nudging 5ft 7in.

Heights of children have also increased since not working in a factories or coal mines, or walking miles to and from school, and not living in cold homes during winter, has freed hundreds of kilojoules of energy per day - to be used for growing instead.

Modern studies of twins show a person's height is controlled 90per cent by hereditary and 10pc by environmental causes.

Phil Heinricy, a former chemicals salesman is 6ft 8in and the founder of the 1,500-strong Tall Persons Club.

He says worktops, cars and aeroplane seats are all designed with scant regard for tall people. Chris Greener, at 7ft 6in and the club's tallest member, arranged a European convention in London next month at which "heightism" was discussed.

The Tall Persons Club claims to get up to 100 letters a day from people who are suffering because of their height, asking where to find clothes, shoes, beds, desks and other furniture for tall people?

Britain loses 70 million working days each year because of backache and much of the trouble is caused by designers failing to take into account taller people.

But many letters are from women or teenagers who are bullied or ridiculed at school or in the workplace.

Some High Street retailers have begun to catch on - Marks and Spencer has added an extra 2.5 in to the length of some shirts - but Mr Heinricy says British manufacturers and retailers are lagging behind their American and European competitors.

British Standards Institute spokesman Tom Godfrey said most of their standards were voluntary.

"All standards are reviewed every five years. If during this review process it became necessary to amend a standard, we would do so."

Weblink: www.guinnessworldrecords.com

www.famous heights.com

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