Spina bifida is a birth defect in which part of the spine does not form normally,
leaving an opening in the back. As a result, the spinal cord and nerves may be damaged.
There are three types of spina bifida:
Spina bifida occulta is the mildest form; "occulta" means "hidden,"
and the defect is covered by skin and there is no protrusion of the spinal cord or
its coverings. Most children with this type don't have any problems, though some may
develop symptoms as they get older.
Meningocele involves the meninges, the membranes that cover and
protect the brain and spinal cord. The meninges push through the opening in the back,
forming a sac called a meningocele. Since the spinal cord is not involved, there is
little or no nerve damage. Some children will have mild disability.
Myelomeningocele is the most severe form of spina bifida. It
happens when the meninges and the spinal cord push through the opening in the back.
This causes nerve damage and is associated with more severe disabilities. Most people
mean myelomeningocele when they say someone has spina bifida.
Problems that can occur with spina bifida include:
buildup in and around the brain) that requires a shunt to drain the extra fluid. Teachers
should be aware of symptoms of shunt malfunction, which include headache, nausea or
vomiting, and a deterioration in physical or mental abilities.
paralysis, depending on the location of the opening (the higher on the spine,
the more severe the paralysis)
Every child with spina bifida is different, and students' specific abilities can
vary widely. Most students can do well in school, but some have difficulties. Understanding
the extent of a student's condition will help you identify strengths and weaknesses
in the classroom.
You may need to modify the classroom environment to meet your student's needs,
as well as revise your teaching strategies and make other adjustments. The accommodations
needed will depend on the student's impairment and the classroom environment. The
student's specific needs should be listed in an IEP or 504 plan.