AHS Asylum truths #2: Microcephaly

Microcephaly. Pronounced my-kroh-SEF-uh-lee.

THIS rare neurodevelopment disorder usually occurs as result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb, which leaves a baby with a significantly smaller head, and consequentially brain. Scientists define microcephaly as having a head circumference (HC) more than two standard dhttp://becuo.com/microcephaly-pinheadeviations below the mean for that precise age and gender. It is thought to have its origins either congenitally or due to other conditions that effect brain growth and development, both during pregnancy and shortly after.
Effectively, it leaves the child with a smaller head and brain, which has been known to dramatically lower life expectancy and decreases brain function, although this is not always the case. Unfortunately, like many obvious physical disabilities and defects, people can be quite shocked and unfamiliar with how this diagnosis can effect the appearance of those who have it. http://cdn2.crushable.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/pepper1.jpg
Pepper in American Horror Story is a rather generalised, although realistic depiction of what people with microcephaly would have been viewed and treated like in the 1960s. Like many other physical disabilities in the early to mid 1900s, these were automatically seen as bizarre, freakish and perhaps monstrous, much like Pepper is. On the contrary, as her story unfolds as to the reason she resides at Briarcliffe, it becomes obvious that were it not for her appearance, she may have never been committed.

Often called ‘pinheads’, people with microcephaly were notoriously subjects of bullying, social stigma and marginalisation; pushed to the outskirts of society and often only accepted when in an asylum or 1900s freak show. The photo on the left shows Pepper (played by Naomi Grossman) alongside real-life Schlitzie, an American sideshow performer and https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/2d/d6/4c/2dd64c7efe9f06ad441be87a31d525cd.jpgoccasional actor from the 1930s.Although there are parallels and it’s obvious Schlitzie was inspiration for the character of Pepper, there are some obvious differences i.e. Pepper is a female!

Sadly, these kind of physical disability stigmas are still around, although thanks God freak shows aren’t!