Dwarfism Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Dwarfism is a growth disorder. The most common type is called achondroplasia. Typically, adults with dwarfism are 4 feet 10 inches or under.

Achondroplasia commonly results in:

  • shortened upper arms and legs and a relatively long torso
  • shortened hands and fingers
  • larger head and a prominent forehead
  • flattened bridge of the nose

Physical problems related to dwarfism can include:

  • reduced muscle tone and delayed motor skill development
  • breathing problems
  • curvature of the spine, such as scoliosis
  • bowed legs
  • limited joint flexibility and arthritis
  • lower back pain or leg numbness
  • recurring ear infections and risk of hearing loss
  • crowded teeth

Dwarfism does not affect intellectual abilities. There is no cure for dwarfism, but most little people live long, fulfilling lives. Little people go to school, have careers, marry, and raise kids, just like their average-size peers.

Students with dwarfism may:

  • need extra time getting to classes due to mobility issues
  • need extra time on tests if manual dexterity is an issue
  • miss assignments or class time due to medical appointments
  • need step stools for bathrooms, water fountains, classrooms, and other areas
  • need additional accommodations in the classroom and around school
  • feel anxious, depressed, or embarrassed by their size
  • be at risk for teasing or bullying
  • benefit from an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 education plan to accommodate educational and physical needs

What Teachers Can Do

Your classroom can offer a welcoming and productive learning environment by providing adaptive accommodations where necessary. Students with dwarfism should be able to reach everything their classmates can reach. And remember to treat your students with dwarfism according to their age, not their size. Unless the student has a learning disability, educational expectations should not differ from those of other students.

Students with dwarfism may be limited in the types of exercises and activities that they can do, but it’s very important that they participate in safe physical activities to help stay fit.

Students with dwarfism may feel awkward or embarrassed around other students. Educating yourself and students about dwarfism can decrease bullying and increase self-confidence for students with dwarfism.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2015