Dwarfism Factsheet (for Schools)
What Teachers Should Know About Dwarfism
Dwarfism is caused by changes in bone and cartilage growth that result in short stature. Achondroplasia is the most common type of dwarfism. Typically, individuals with dwarfism reach an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches or shorter.
Health concerns related to dwarfism may include:
- reduced muscle tone and differences in gross motor development
- curvature of the spine, such as scoliosis
- bowed legs
- limited joint flexibility, joint stiffness and joint pain
- lower back pain or leg numbness
- recurring ear infections and risk of hearing loss
- crowded teeth
- sleep apnea or other respiratory challenges
Dwarfism does not typically affect intellectual ability. People with dwarfism go to school, have careers, marry, and raise children, just like their average-height peers.
Students with dwarfism may:
- benefit from extra time getting to and from classes
- need accommodations or extra time on tests if manual dexterity/hand fatigue is a concern
- miss assignments or class time due to medical visits
- need step-stools for bathrooms, water fountains, classrooms, and other areas to promote independence
- need other accommodations in the classroom and around school (such as modified seating, a set of textbooks for home, light switch extenders, lowered soap dispensers, movement breaks for stiff joints, disability accessible doors, etc.)
- benefit from a 504 plan, individualized education program (IEP), or other education plan to ensure appropriate supports are in place
What Teachers Can Do
You can make your classroom a welcoming and productive learning environment by making adaptive changes where necessary. Students with dwarfism should be able to reach everything their classmates can reach. Remember to treat your student 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.
Changes to the physical education curriculum may be necessary, but students with dwarfism should participate in such activities as much as they are able.
Some families may have preferred language they wish to use, such as, “He has dwarfism, which means his bones grow differently.” Most people with dwarfism are comfortable with the terms “short-stature,” “little person,” or “dwarf.” Using these terms in person-first language is preferred (i.e., “person with dwarfism”). It is also good to think about the use of the word “normal,” as in “normal height.” “Average” or “typical” are preferred. The word “midget” is considered a derogatory slur. Like anyone, though, a person with dwarfism will simply prefer to be called by their name, not their diagnosis.
All children benefit from an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion, including those with physical differences such as dwarfism. Talk to your student’s family about the best way for you and others to learn about dwarfism.
You also can find more information about dwarfism online at: