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Supporting Children with Medical
and Mental Health Needs at School


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Spina bifida is a birth defect which occurs when a baby's spine does not develop properly. It is a lifelong condition.

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There are several different types of spina bifida. Myelomeningocele is one of the most serious types. It can be associated with significant damage to the spinal cord and can leave the nervous system vulnerable to life-threatening infections.

Causes of spina bifida

Low levels of folic acid in the diet during early pregnancy can increase a woman's risk of her baby being born with spina bifida. 


Expectant parents may be able to find out if their baby has spina bifida by taking prenatal tests.

Treatment for spina bifida

  • Babies with a myelomeningocele need surgery 1 to 2 days after birth to protect the exposed area and central nervous system and to prevent them from becoming infected.
  • Children with spina bifida may need long-term care to help treat any underlying conditions that result from their spina bifida.
  • Children with paralysis may eventually need walking aids like leg braces, walkers, or a wheelchair.

Supporting students with spina bifida

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  • Meet with parents/carers to agree an individual healthcare plan. 
  • Some children and young people may have frequent hospital admissions, contact the Hospital School Staff to ensure continuity of education. 
  • An occupational therapist may be part of the team looking after a child or young person, consult them for advice on physical adjustments to the school environment. 

Physical needs

  • Gross motor difficulties may require the use of splints, casts, leg braces, canes, crutches, walkers, or a wheelchair.
  • Poor eye–hand coordination may make things like handwriting difficult.
  • Extra time for moving around school may be required.
  • Additional toilet breaks may be required. 

Learning needs

  • Learning difficulties around memory, attention, comprehension, and organisation may be present. 
  • If this is the case, break down information into one task at a time. Use simple, clear and consistent language with visual and gestural support.
  • Chunk work and allow frequent breaks to help with concentration. 
  • Allow extra assistance and time to complete work assignments.

More information

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HOPE (Hospital Organisation of Pedagogues in Europe)