Achondroplasia Explained for Teachers and Teaching Assistants


What is Achondroplasia?
Achondroplasia is one of the most common forms of short limb dwarfism. The child will have short bones in the arms and legs, especially the upper arms and thighs, which makes the child short but with a nearly average-size torso. The child will typically have a large head, prominent forehead and a nose that's flat across the bridge.

The average adult height in achondroplasia is about 4 ft for both men and women. Most people with achondroplasia have normal intelligence and their life span is normal. Achondroplasia occurs in all races and evenly for boys and girls.

What causes Achondroplasia?
In approximately 75 per cent of children the problem results from a new mutation of a gene (that is, neither parent carries the faulty gene), but in some cases a child inherits achondroplasia from a parent who also has the condition. There is also a link with older fathers, over the age of 40. The incidence is 1 in 25,000.

What are the effects of Achondroplasia?
Children with achondroplasia may have the following associated medical conditions:
- glue ear
- sp
eech impairment
breathing problems in young children
- hydrocephalus and related problems
- s
pinal stenosis leading to compression of nerves, causing pain in hips, knees, legs, - joint problems due to leg bowing.

What are the implications for the school?
The school will need to liaise with parents to find out what provision is needed in terms of help with personal care, adaptations to the physical environment (eg handrails, seating, steps/stairs, furniture, toilets) and level of supervision. Advice will also need to be taken from the professionals involved with the child, eg occupational therapist, speech and language therapist, physiotherapist.

Children with achondroplasia, especially younger children, may find using a normal WC and wash basin difficult. Adaptations may be needed to assist the child. This may be the provision of a step stool and handles attached to either side of a normal WC and also the washbasin. Some children may prefer to use a separate toilet facility while others may feel this is stigmatising.

Children with achondroplasia often manage to use ordinary furniture and may prefer not to draw attention to themselves by having special seating. However, advice should be taken from occupational and physio-therapists as spinal degeneration could occur in later life if unsuitable seating is used.

Tips for Teachers and Teaching Assistants
The following tips have been found to work well with children with Achondroplasia, however please remember that every child's condition is unique and you should consult with their physiotherapist, occupational therapist etc as appropriate.

1. If the child uses normal seating then try putting a cushion behind the child's back so that their knees bend in the right place and use a box or step stool under the feet to prevent the knees from taking too much weight.

2. Provide increased supervision to children with achondroplasia in PE activities as their large head and short arms mean that balance is likely to be a problem. Adapt PE equipment as needed.

3. Remember it is difficult for a child with achondroplasia to break their fall with their arms.

4. Try to avoid the child with achondroplasia carrying heavy bags.

5. Sitting on the floor, especially cross-legged, is difficult for children with achondroplasia. Give them a back rest or a chair, but try not to make them feel different from others.

Where can I get further information about Achondroplasia?
Achondroplasia UK (
Restricted Growth Association (