Entries in Learning Disabilities (4)


NYC Special Education School Incorporates Sex Ed in Mission

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For Judy Blake, a mother of two sons, both with autism spectrum disorder, it was important for her to have the sex talk with them at an early age, in clear and specific terms.

"A parent of a child with special needs doesn't just have to be two steps ahead, but 10 steps ahead," said Blake, author of the book, Judy's World, which discusses her experience as a mother to two sons with autism.  "For many kids, learning about sex requires a lot of repetition about safety, appropriateness, social cues and relationships."

Lorraine Merkl, a mother of an eighth grade student at the Aaron Academy, a special education school based in New York City, agrees that sex education must be presented in a gradual, individualistic and repetitive way for many children with intellectual disabilities.

"The school does a good job of laying the foundation of sex, the nuts and bolts, but allows parents like me to talk to their kids about the emotional and moral aspects of sex," said Merkl, whose daughter has Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

That's because the school makes a conscious effort to incorporate sex education in its mission to educate mindful and responsible adults.

"We have specialized instruction around difficult issues," said Barbara McKeon, director of the Aaron Academy.  "Many students are physically mature, but not there emotionally.  They are a more vulnerable part of the population, being bombarded by media and social networking, it can be difficult to sort out what is expected."

The Aaron Academy follows an educational framework based on research in cognitive neurosciences.  The method encourages flexible learning environments that accommodate individual learning differences, and sex education is a key modality in the school's education mission.

New York City schools are mandated to teach sexual education.  Nevertheless, McKeon said "sex ed is not the goal, but a part of the process" at the school.

Relationship and decision-making concepts are built into the school's courses.  There is focus around health and hygiene for teens going through puberty and students keep journals to write down thoughts they do not want to discuss out loud.

McKeon also said administrators use a "red light, green light" tactic.  If students say something inappropriate to another teacher or student, they will hear "red light."

"The inappropriate comment will fade off and the students are able to process appropriate conversations in a better way," said McKeon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Anesthesia Exposure before Age 2 Could Disrupt Development

Photodisc/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Infants who are put under for surgery more than once before the age of 2 may be at increased risk of learning disabilities later in life, according to research from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The use of general anesthesia in infants undergoing surgery is currently considered very safe, but mounting evidence -- first in animals and more recently in humans -- suggests that repeated exposure to anesthetics in the first few years of life could cause brain damage if carried out during certain key developmental periods.

The Mayo Clinic study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, tracked the medical and school records of a thousand children born between 1976 and 1982 in Rochester, Minn., 350 of which were given general anesthesia at least once in the first two years of life.

Among infants who had had more than one surgery during those years, almost 37 percent experienced a learning disability later in life, compared with only 21 percent in the children who did not undergo surgery.  Even for those children who had only one surgery during infanthood, the rate of learning disability was slightly higher, at 24 percent.

Learning disabilities seemed to center on speech and language difficulties, says Dr. Randall Flick, Mayo Clinic pediatric anesthesiologist and lead author of the study.

Researchers controlled for characteristics that might also affect development later in life such as birth weight, gestational age and maternal education level, by matching each of the 350 study subjects to two control children in the same population who shared similar characteristics.

"Kids who were exposed were three times as likely to later need a special education program to address speech and language difficulties than kids who weren't exposed to anesthesia," he says.

The research is preliminary, and shouldn't change surgical protocol at this time, the authors say.  But even the possibility that anesthesia is damaging to infants' brains is disquieting for physicians and parents, especially because infant surgery is so seldom elective -- surgery in infants is almost always medically necessary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Secondhand Smoke Linked to Neurobehavioral Disorders

AbleStock [dot] com/Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(DUBLIN) -- Expanding on a 2007 survey that reported a link between parents who smoked and children who had neurobehavioral disorders, researchers at the Tobacco Free Research Institute in Dublin found that an estimated 4.8 million children in the U.S. were exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

These children were at a 50 percent greater risk of having two or more neurobehavioral disorders -- like ADHD and learning disabilities -- compared to children not exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the researchers.

Futhermore, they found that boys, older children (aged 9-11 years old), and those living in poor households were at the greatest risk.

The authors of the study, published Monday in Pediatrics, concluded that had these children not been exposed to secondhand smoke in the home, more than a quarter of a million cases of neurobehavioral disorders may have been prevented.

However, it is worth noting that this conclusion is inappropriate for this data since the study only shows that secondhand smoke exposure and these conditions are associated, not that one caused the other.   Therefore, one cannot determine what the rate of these disorders would have been had there been no secondhand smoke exposure.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA to Hold Meeting on Anesthesia's Link to Learning Disabilities in Kids

Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold a panel meeting Thursday to explore whether or not anesthesia use in children can cause learning disabilities.

Studies in the past have shown a possible link between anesthesia exposure in young rats and monkeys and the death of their brain cells.  However, that link has not yet been made clear in humans.  But a 2009 study reported in Anesthesiology, found that children who were exposed to anesthesia twice before the age of four were 59 percent more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities than those who weren't.

"We need to definitively answer the questions of whether anesthetic use in children poses a risk to their development and, if so, under what circumstances," Bob Rappaport, MD, the head of the FDA's anesthesia and analgesia products and his colleagues wrote in an article published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio