The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders as a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank during pregnancy. The effects of the fetal alcohol disorders includes many learning challenges including hyperactivity, poor attention span, memory issues, coordination challenges, anxiety, speech and language delays, problem-solving issues, difficulty staying on task, behavioral challenges and social interaction.
Some children with FASD have co-occurring disorders or are often mis-diagnosed.
Williams Syndrome also known as Williams-Beuren syndrome was discovered in 1961 by J.C.P. Williams, a Cardiologist from New Zealand. Williams Syndrome is a rare disorder with a prevalence of in 7,500 to 20,000 caused by the deletion of genetic material from chromosome 7. Williams syndrome symptoms include heart problems, low birth weight, l problems and developmental delays. 75 are diagnosed with mile to moderate intellectual disabilities or a learning disability.
Students with Mild intellectual disabilities will have difficulty with abstract thinking, executive functioning including planning, prioritizing, and cognitive flexibility. According to the Williams Syndrome Association Website, Children with Williams Syndrome face challenges with processing non-verbal information and displays difficulty with attention to detail.
Strategies should include:
Using short sentences
Break task into small steps
Use concrete examples when introducing new words or concepts.
Teach one concept at a time
Use a multisensory approach which will help to stimulate learning
Utilize visual learning style including the use of flash cars, pictures, images, handouts and colors.
Angelman Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system, characteristics that include developmental delays, intellectual disability, and speech impairments. Angelman syndrome generally go unnoticed until the age of 1 year. Children typically have a happy demeanor and have a fascination with water
short attention span
feeding problems during infancy
sensitivity to heat
attraction to water
Angelman Syndrome is a rare disorder and affects 1 in 12,000 to 20,000 a year. Equally to less than 200,000 case a year. Affects all ethnicities and sexes equally.
Nonverbal Learning Disorder is a disorder you may or nay not heard of. It shares similar characteristics to autism such as the challenge in reading body language but is also quite different. By learning the signs and symptoms of nonverbal learning disorder, the better chance you have in using effective teaching strategies.
Nonverbal learning disorder is defines as a person who has difficulty in interpreting and understanding non verbal cues in the environment If 93% of how we communicate is nonverbal, a person with nonverbal learning disorder is only getting 7% of daily communication.
Dr. Byron P. Rouke of the University of Windsor developed the following criteria to assess nonverbal learning disorder:
Perceptual deficits usually on the left side of the body. The child has difficulty understanding or perceiving information through the skin of both hands but the left hand has more difficulty than the right.
Tends to be clumsy
Difficulty with visual-spatial organizational skills. Finds it difficult to organize notes.
Difficulty when encountering new information.
Difficulty in knowing what is expected of you and hard to see the bigger picture
Distort sense of time. Time is abstract and non-linear
Well-developed, rote and verbal capacity
Repetitive way of speaking
Signs and Symptoms
Excellent vocabulary and verbal expression
Excellent memory skills
unable to see the bigger picture
Poor motor and coordination skills
Difficulty with reading
Difficulty with math reading problems
Fear of new situations
May have symptoms of anxiety, depression
Misreads body language
Better auditory processing skills than visual processing skills
Focus on details
Teaching Strategies For Parents and Teachers
Give assignments in chunks
Give constructive feedback
Create a daily class routine and stick to them
Write the class schedule on the board
Provide several verbal cues before transition
Give the student time to preview and prepare for new activities such as group projects
Offer added verbal explanations when the student or child seems confused
Teach in sequential steps
Rondalyn Varney Whitney/OTR, Nonverbal learning disorder: Understanding and coping with NLD and Aspergers: What parents and teachers need to know (2008)
Woliver, Robbie (2008) Alphabet Kids: From ADD to Zellwer Syndrome.
Studies show that epilepsy are more common in individuals with autism than the general population. Studies show that in some cases, 20% of people diagnosed with autism also have an epilepsy disorder. Other studies indicate epilepsy prevalence estimates between 5% to 46%.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts social, speech, behavioral and motor skills. It is a spectrum disorder meaning it varies from person to person. No two people have the same symptoms. It is estimated that 1% of the population is diagnosed with autism.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder which occurs when neurons in the brain experience a brief interruption causing a seizure to occur. Seizures vary from mild to severe and affects over 3 million Americans. There are different types of seizures:
Generalized Tonic/Clonic- A seizures where the whole brain is affected.
Absence Seizures- Generally start without any warnings. It affects children and last only for a few seconds.
Myoclonic Seizures- Are abrupt jerks of the muscle groups which originate from the spine.
Partial Seizures- The person may look as though he or she is in a trance.
There are many unanswered questions as to why epilepsy is more common in people with autism. There is some evidence the common underlying cause may be both are related to genetic and environmental causes and are both related to some type of brain disorder. Evidence does shoe however individuals with autism and epilepsy have worse behavioral and social outcomes than individuals diagnosed with autism only including issues with motor and daily living skills.
Signs for parents to look out for
May be difficult to determine especially in children diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder. Red flags include, staring episodes, stiffening of the body and shaking movements.
A medical evaluation will include brain imaging and an electroencephalogram (EEG).
If you are an educator, be aware that after a seizure, the student will become tired. Allow the student an opportunity to rest.
Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that is the result of a ring that develops when a chromosome breaks in two places and the short arm of a chromosome has merged with the tip of the long arm.
This anomaly causes recurrent seizures during childhood. It is reported that the seizure can occur at anytime from during the day time to sleeping at night, it is very rare. In fact only 50 cases have been reported in research journals. However, this form of epilepsy can occur from birth to 17 years old.
What makes this rare form of seizures unique is that it does not respond to anti-epileptic medication. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) tends to be successful as well as the Ketogenic diet in reducing the number of seizures.
Children diagnosed with Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome typically experience several types of seizures including:
Non-convulsive status epilepticus
Frontal lobe seizures
Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
Signs and Symptoms
Children with Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome generally face challenges in the area of behavioral, learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities. In some instances, children may display physical characteristics including slow growth, short stature and a small size head.
Signs and Symptoms of Intellectual Disability
Decrease learning ability
Delays in crawling
Difficulty solving problems
Lack of curiosity
Language and speech delays
Poor motor skills
Short attention span
Use short and simple sentences
use strategies for remembering such as clustering information together
Provide immediate feedback
Signs and Symptoms of learning disabilities
Difficulty recognizing non-verbal cues such as facial expression
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. It is defined as language-based learning disability. Research shows that 1 in 5 people are dyslexic. It is a myth that people with dyslexia see words backwards, rather, letters such as b-d are reversed due tp deficits interpreting left and right. The best way for children to learn to read is through a multi-sensory approach. The following links include tips, strategies and ways to accommodate a student with dyslexia.
Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) is a chromosomal disorder due to 3 copies of chromosome 21, causing a number of developmental delays, medical and physical disabilities. Learning is one of the areas that is affected by the disorder. Children born with Down syndrome typically have delays in the area of gross and fine motor skills, thinking, short attention span, speech and language difficulties and sequencing. The following links and resources include information on tips and strategies for teaching children with Down syndrome for both parents and teachers.