Learning Abilities

Research shows that learning difficulties are faced by about 80% of children with spina bifida. Although any child with spina bifida can experience problems, they are more likely to be experienced by the child with hydrocephalus and even more frequently by the child who has had infections of the shunt. The majority of children with learning difficulties fall within the normal range of intelligence, however many will perform at a low average level and experience difficulties and poor performance in one or more areas of learning.
  • Poor eye-hand coordination (called perceptual motor)
  • Comprehension (understanding what the senses take in)
  • Attention deficit (paying attention)
  • Hyperactivity (restless, fidgety behaviour)
  • Memory
  • Organisation
  • Sequencing (keeping ideas in order)
  • Problem solving and decision making
These difficulties have implications for the children in all settings: home, childcare, and kindergarten, pre-school and school, and they often continue into adulthood. (Excerpted from Learning Among Children with Spina Bifida by Dr. Donald J. Lollar, published by The Spina Bifida Association of America, 1995)

Language Development excerpted from Understanding Spina Bifida

Although children with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus develop their language skills the same way as other children, some may experience difficulties in certain areas as school work becomes more complex:
  1. Auditory Comprehension - difficulty understanding what is heard. Coping strategies:
    • Make sure you have your child's full attention before giving instructions, and then give them one at a time. Encourage her to repeat instructions and to ask questions if she does not understand.
  2. Reading Comprehension - difficulty in understanding what is read. Coping strategies:
    • Talk about whowhatwhenwhere and why when you are reading a story with your child to help him to focus on what is relevant to the story.
  3. Word Finding - difficulty in retrieving words from memory. Coping strategies:
    • In order to remember an object's appearance and function, have your child picture it in their mind and to think about the letter or sound at the beginning of the word.
  4. Abstract Thinking - difficulty in understanding and connecting ideas and concepts, and in using language to work through a problem. Coping strategies:
    • Help her to develop solutions to problems by brainstorming and debating issues.
If you are a current SBHASA member and would like a copy of "A Teacher's Guide to Hydrocephalus" forwarded to your school, please contact our office. You can also borrow a copy of "When your child has Learning Differences" from our library by contacting Stephanie at ACH.

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