What is Microcephaly?
Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition where an infant’s head is significantly smaller than normally developing children of the same gender and age. Microcephaly is usually the result of abnormal brain development in the womb or after birth. Microcephaly can be caused by a number of genetic and environmental factors and can sometimes be detected before birth. Children with microcephaly tend to have co morbid developmental problems. Some children with microcephaly will have normal intelligence and will not have development problems, despite the smaller that average head size.
There is often no treatment available for microcephaly, however early intervention from health professionals such as Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists may help enhance the child’s development and aid in improve quality of life.
What are Symptoms or Associated Features?
The primary feature of Microcephaly is a head size (circumference) significantly smaller than that of other children of the same age and sex.
Common Secondary Features Include:
- Developmental delays in speech and motor skills
- Coordination and balance difficulties
- Dwarfism or reduced height
- Craniofacial deformities
- Mental Impairment
What are the causes of Microcephaly?
Microcephaly usually is the result of abnormal brain development caused by any of the following:
- Family genetic predisposition.
- Craniosynostosis. This is where the infant’ skull fuses prematurely keeping the brain from growing. Treatment in these cases may include surgery to separate the fused bones, allowing the brain adequate space to grow and develop.
- Chromosomal abnormalities. Down syndrome and other conditions can result in microcephaly.
- Cerebral anoxia. This is where the foetal brain does not receive enough oxygen, possibly due to complications during the pregnancy.
- Foetal infection. This includes toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, rubella and chickenpox exposure during the pregnancy.
- Teratogenic Exposure. This includes exposure to drugs, alcohol or certain toxic chemicals while in the womb.
- Severe malnutrition. Lack of adequate nutrition during pregnancy can be an impacting factor on foetal development.
How can a Speech Pathologist help?
Treatment focuses on decreasing the impact of the co morbid diagnoses such as developmental language and motor delay. The child is initially evaluated by a Paediatrician and then referred for management by a range of multidisciplinary specialists. Medications may be provided to control seizures, hyperactivity, and neuromuscular symptoms. Early childhood intervention programs involving, speech pathologists, physical and occupational therapists help to enhance the child’s skills in their respective areas.
Are children with Microcephaly eligible to receive Government funding for therapy?
Children who have a diagnosis a range of disorders including Microcephaly, may be eligible to receive funding for therapy and resources until your child turns 7. The Better Start for Children with Disability initiative includes up to $12,000 in funding for early intervention services and treatments for eligible children. Additional assistance is also available for eligible children who live in outer-regional, rural or remote locations to help with the costs of accessing services. A Medicare rebate is also available for eligible children up to the age of 13.
For more information or to apply for Better Start funding go to: better start funding
For more information on this topic or any speech related fields, contact the ENT Clinic on 1300 123 368 and make an appointment with our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah.