Developmental Disabilities

Spina Bifida


Spina Bifida is cause by a prenatal malformation of the spine, resulting in an opening in the vertebral column, often involving the central nervous system.  This condition can vary a great deal in degree of severity.  In some children, it may merely involve a weakness in one part of the spine.  Symptoms of the more severe form may include:

1.     loss of sensation from the spina bifida protrusion to all areas of the body below it;

2.     little or no bladder or bowel control;

3.     hydrocephalus, which may have been corrected through the implantation of shunts;

4.     brittle bones in areas in which there is poor circulation due to lack of sensation and physical movement;

loss of muscle control below spinelesion.

Spina Bifida

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Spina bifida is a major birth defect of a baby's spine. It is one of the most common, permanently disabling birth defects in the United States.

Spina bifida occurs within the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. It happens when the spine and back bones do not close all the way. When this happens, the spinal cord and back bones do not form as they should. A sac of fluid comes through an opening in the baby's back. Much of the time, part of the spinal cord is in this sac and it is damaged.

Most children born with spina bifida live full lives, though they often have lifelong disabilities and need many surgeries. Some of the problems that a person born with spina bifida might face include:

  • Not being able to move lower parts of their body. (Some might need to use crutches, braces, or wheelchairs to get around.)
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control. (Some might have to wear protective clothing. Others learn new ways to empty their bladders and bowels.)
  • Fluid building up and putting pressure on the brain (hydrocephalus), which needs to be fixed with an operation.
  • Learning disabilities.
  • Allergy to latex (a created material found in some rubber-type products such as balloons or hospital gloves).

All children born with spina bifida don't have the same needs. Some children have problems that are much more severe than others. Even so, with the right care, most of these children will grow up to lead full and productive lives.


Things you can do: enable child to participate with other children, use different art mediums, give child life experiences, take trips, encourage fine motor skills and find a way for the child to be at the level of the other kids so they can play together.

Preventing Spina Bifida

Most, but not all, cases of spina bifida can be prevented.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body needs to make healthy new cells. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, her baby is less likely to have spina bifida or another defect of the brain or spine. Women need to take folic acid every day, starting before they get pregnant.

Every woman who could possibly get pregnant should take 400 micrograms (400 μg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid daily in a vitamin or in foods that have been enriched with folic acid.


From 1989 - 1996 Dr. Turben was Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at John Carroll University. In addition to teaching Teach Education and Early Childhood-Special Education courses, she supervised masters and post-baccalaureate programs that lead to the PreK, Kindergarten, and Early Education of Handicapped Children validations. She has done research concerning the effectiveness of home visits, the importance of neighborhoods as social structures and parent involvement in schools.
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