Welcome back to 31 Days of Spina Bifida Awareness! This week I’m going to talk about how Spina bifida affects learning and education. Remember that Mason is only 9 months old so I have no real-life experience with this yet. I have been finding information through the Spina Bifida Association’s website. I also know an international community of Spina bifida families online. In this community are many adults who have SB themselves. While they agree they have had some learning challenges they also are the first to point out that many of them are college graduates and one is even a university professor.
So what kind of learning challenges are frequently found in children and adults who have Spina bifida? There are several and they usually impact each other.
- Perceptual motor problems – Children with shunts (for hydrocephalus, frequently found with SB) may have poor eye-hand coordination. This can affect their ability to use tools, read, and write.
- Attention – There is a higher incidence of ADD characterized by trouble paying attention and overlooking social cues.
- Hyperactivity/Impulsivity – ADHD is also more likely. While physical impairment may mask the restlessness, children with SB may end up doing things quickly and carelessly.
- Memory – While understanding what they see or hear, children with SB often have difficulty remembering. This is what contributes to the next learning difficulty.
- Reading Comprehension – While learning to read does not usually pose a challenge, reading for comprehension may be more difficult. If you need to read a passage and then remember all the details long enough to answer questions it’s hard to do that with memory issues involved.
- Organization - Children with SB often have trouble with organizational skills.
- Sequencing - Children and adolescents with SB often have
trouble doing activities in their proper order. Writing stories may be difficult because children cannot organize ideas. Sequencing problems lead to math difficulties.
- Decision Making/Problem Solving - People with Spina Bifida have
trouble making decisions, which requires using what was learned in the past to solve a new problem now.
This week I will try to share some specifics about a few of these areas and what I’m learning about how to overcome them. I think that this is probably one area where my thoughts may be a bit unusual, in part because I am a homeschooling mother. Most of the literature I’ve read so far solves the learning problems by medicating a child who exhibits ADD/ADHD symptoms, then handing the child over to neuropsychologists and special education teachers for learning issues that still remain. I am very much against drugging a child with amphetamines (cocaine-like substances) that literally alter a child’s brain structure and chemical balance. I also choose to be involved in a one on one, daily education with my children. Handing them off to someone else for education does not equip the parent to help their child. Working with professionals to learn the coping strategies they teach a child and then applying that in teaching my children is more likely the approach I will take.