Spina bifida (SB) is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States and is caused by improper closure of the spinal cord during very early gestation. This neural tube defect means that part of the spinal cord is improperly formed and the delicate nerves and spinal cord protrude to, or through, the surface of the spine. Every day, about eight babies in the United States will be born with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. Most infants who are born with spina bifida will require immediate surgical intervention to correct any spinal cord anomalies and place the delicate spinal cord and nerves back inside the infant’s body. If your child has been diagnosed prenatally or at birth with spina bifida, you may feel frightened and terribly alone, unsure what to expect in the future, and how best to manage your child’s ongoing care. As the symptoms of spina bifida may range from mild to very severe, you may wonder what the future will hold.
At Ascent Children’s Health Services, we work with many families whose children are diagnosed with spina bifida. Our expert team of therapists, doctors, psychiatrists, and caregivers have helped countless children with this disorder and are ready to help you and your family plan for your child’s future.
Why Seek Treatment for Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida often requires surgical intervention in order to correct the improperly formed spinal cord and place the nerves and other delicate matter back inside the spinal column. Treatment does not end with surgery, though. Certain types of spina bifida cause lasting, irreparable nerve damage. In all cases of spina bifida, a multidisciplinary team composed of pediatric specialists, physicians, nurses, therapists, and caregivers will be of great benefit to the child and improve his or her chances at developing the necessary skills to be as independent as possible in daily life.
The ability to have a multidimensional care team under a single roof is the very best way in which to handle long-term care of spina bifida. Having a great number of specialists working together will ensure that your child will receive the care he or she needs from every disciple of his or her treatment team. Your care plan will have regular meetings to discuss his or her ongoing progress, make changes to the treatments as needed, and work together to improve your child’s readiness to enter and navigate the world. There is no one-size-fits all approach to care for spina bifida, so a care team will work with your child to make certain that all of his or her treatment needs are being met and followed through to increase quality of life, happiness, and fulfillment.
Program Philosophy and Benefits
At Ascent Children’s Health Services, we serve every child and family who comes to us with the respect and attention that they deserve. We work hard to treat each child in a multidisciplinary, developmental, and therapeutic setting to promote his or her maximum level of development and readiness to enter the world. As a holistic treatment center, we work hard to pave the way for our children to maximize their potential for success in all endeavors they choose to pursue. Our philosophy is based upon the recognition that each family is a unique unit and each child who comes to us has amazing potential. We work hard to enhance the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of each person who comes to us for help while we promote independence and the hope for recovery. In this way, we are able to be sure that each child who comes to us for help receives the most effective and appropriate level of care.
Treatment Approaches for Spina Bifida at Ascent Children’s Health Services
When you come to us with a referral for services, we will perform a variety of evaluations given by our trained professionals to determine a plan of care for your child. We’ll engage your child through a variety of techniques to determine the types of interventions that should be used to help your child reach his or her maximum potential. We’ll take the findings of our evaluations and sit down with you to work together to create a plan of care for your child’s therapy. Some of the types of therapies you child may participate in may include:
Physical therapy will help your child to develop bladder and bowel training techniques as many children who have spina bifida struggle with muscular control in the urogenital and bowel areas. PT can also help to prevent contractures and work on strengthening muscles to increase coordination, balance, and mobility.
Occupational therapy will help your child to overcome any developmental disabilities he or she may be struggling with in order to help them enter into the school system. Additionally, occupational therapy will help your child to develop the fine motor skills needed to succeed in the world. We’ll also work with your child to determine the necessity of any assistive devices such as a wheelchair, leg braces, crutches, or walkers.
Speech therapy may be used for children who have challenges swallowing and chewing in order to prevent complications such as aspiration and malnutrition. ST can also help your child learn language and communication skills necessary to maintain optimal independence and functioning in a scholastic environment.
Medication management for children who need medication to control some of the symptoms of the disorder. Many medications are available to help children who have bowel and bladder problems in order to prevent UTI’s and other infections of the urogenital region. Other medications offer an antispasmodic property, can help treat depression that may result from a chronic condition, and other medications to help treat the symptoms of spina bifida. The usage of medications will be carefully discussed among your child’s care team.
As a holistic treatment center that aims to treat your child as a whole, we work hard to provide a number of experiential methods to complement our traditional therapies. These may include:
- Therapy gym
- Sensory rooms
- Feeding clinics
- Handwriting without tears
Continuing Care and Levels of Care
At Ascent Children’s Health System, we aim to provide outstanding children in a variety of situations. Our Child Health Management Services (CHMS) offers both a day treatment and outpatient services to help children overcome developmental delays. We also offer Rehabilitate Services for Persons with Mental Illnesses (RSPMI) for children struggling with mental illness on an outpatient or day treatment basis.
Each year, we will conduct evaluations of your child’s progress with us to ensure that he or she is meeting treatment goals and determine continued necessity of services. Some of our children will step down from a day program into outpatient services, while others will transition from outpatient services to school-based programs. Other children may need to step up from our outpatient or school-based services into a day program.