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Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock (CHad)
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Educational Issues

Children and teens with spina bifida face a variety of medical, cognitive and psychosocial challenges as they advance through school, the severity of which is dependent upon the type of lesion the child has and its effect upon the anatomy of their brain and cognitive structures. Learning disabilities are most commonly seen in children who also have an Arnold Chiari Malformation and Hydrocephalus.

As noted in her books Learning Disabilities and The Person with Spina Bifida, Phyllis J. Agness, Ed.D. (distributed by SBAA), the research which has been completed on the general learning problems of children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus would conclude that many of these children experience difficulty in the following areas:

  • Math difficulty, especially affecting math reasoning
  • Poor handwriting skills
  • Organizational problems
  • Distractibility and inattentiveness
  • Sensory integration problems
  • Inappropriate language usage
  • Auditory processing difficulties
  • Visual perception problems

A study by Culattta in 1980 states that between 70 and 80 percent of children with spina bifida have marked educational handicaps which require special education programs. In fact, despite performance within the normal range of intelligence, most of these children exhibit major learning problems which affect their academic achievement. The learning problems may be the result of physical and neurological complications, as well as prolonged and/or multiple hospitalizations. Children with chronic illnesses have reduced opportunities to develop adequate perception and sensory integration. Other right-hemisphere learning disorders may include:

  • Hyperverbal behavior
  • Hyperlexia (verbal IQ higher than performance IQ)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity (i.e. daydreaming, disorganization, problems with direction and time)
  • Social-emotional learning disabilities
  • Spelling disorders
  • Dysgraphia (handwriting disorder)

For a copy of the complete pamphlet on learning disabilities, please call Kathie Doton at (603) 650-5007 or contact her by email.

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