Crystal Coffman-Professor Lara-EDU 214-870

Microcephalus (Microcephaly)

A neurodevelopmental disorder in which the circumference of the head is smaller due to diminished brain growth. Thus, because the brain does not grow properly, the skull does not either. This disorder can be present at birth or contracted later in life. Microcephalus is often caused by a multitude of varying conditions or exposure to harmful substances during fetal development.  

2 Types of Microcephalus and Their Causes

  • Primary Microcephalus- inherited familial trait with no identifiable cause
  • Secondary Microcephalus- various identifiable causes such as, chromosomal anomaly (down syndrome), congenital infections (rubella), metabolic disorders, exposure to radiation, drug and alcohol use by mother, or hypoxic-ischemic encephalophathy (lack of oxygen early in life)

Symptoms and Behaviors

  • Short stature or dwarfism                          
  • Facial deformities
  • Seizures
  • Speech delays
  • Mild to significant learning disabilities
  • Impaired motor functions
  • Difficulty with movement and balance
  • Hyperactivity
  • Other brain or neurological abnormalities  
  • High-pitch crying
  • Poor feeding

Statistics (Not so fun facts)

Approximately 1 in 40,000 children are born with primary microcephalus, while secondary microcephalus is much more prevalent. It is estimated that secondary microcephalus affects more than 25,000 infants in the U.S. each year, but it is hard to pin point an exact number due to the various causes. Although mental retardation and delayed development are primary symptoms, in 15% of cases the child has normal intelligence. Early intervention can also play a vital role in the child's overall abilities.



Unfortunately there is no cure for microcephalus, but treatment of the disorder can help significantly with any medical, neurological and emotional symptoms presented to the patient. Exact treatment is greatly dependent upon the specific symptoms and severity of the disease. Such treatment includes, but is not limited to, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychological counseling. It is also extremely important to focus on boosting nutrition in order to maximize head growth, as well as providing the child with ample opportunities for intellectual stimulation. While there are no  medications available to treat the actual disorder, certain symptoms such as seizures and hyperactivity, can be treated with medication. In addition to these treatments, some families choose to take a non-traditional approach to their child's care through things like hydrotherapy, hippo-therapy (horses), holistic medicine, yoga, meditation and craniosacral  therapy.

Helpful Technology

Claire Hartley

Due to the neurological nature of this disability, many children are not able to walk, talk, or eat normally. The use of wheel chairs and feeding tubes are very common among families affected by microcephalus. This particular little girl is Clarie Hartley, she  is not able to walk, but is learning to crawl with the help of a physical therapist. Claire also relies on a g-tube as her primary source of nutrition. I highly recommend using the button below to visit the Hartley's blog for additional information about living with microcephalus. Disclaimer: Mature language

Teaching Strategies

  • Awareness of student's IEP
  • Constant communication with parents and/or therapists
  • Break tasks down into smaller stepsA
  • Use manipulatives to enhance understanding
  • Create a safe, positive learning environment
  • Reduce the amount of instruction in one statement to allow the child time to understand what is being said
  • Acknowledge level of achievement
  • Allow child to complete tasks and practice skill at own pace
  • Provide lock boxes and musical boards to promote finger and wrist movement
  • Provide a quiet place with objects for the child to explore independently

Family Resources

  • Foundation for Children with Microcephaly

21620 N. 26th Avenue, Suite 140

Phoenix, A.Z. 85027


  • Greater Baltimore Medical Center

6701 North Charles Street

Baltimore M.D. 21204


  • Partners Resource Network

1090 Longfellow Drive, Suite B

Beaumont, T.X. 77706


Current Laws

Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)- Children with disabilities have to opportunity to receive a free and appropriate education

Rosa's Law- Replaces the words "mental retardation" in law with the words "intellectual disability"


Center for Parent Information and Resources. (2015, January 1). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Microcephaly. (2015, January 1). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Microcephaly in Children. (2011, January 1). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Minnesota Department of Health. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

NINDS Microcephaly Information Page. (2008, October 29). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Soul, J. (2011, January 1). Microcephaly in Children. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from