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Spina Bifida: What It Is And How It Happens -- SHNIC Educators Information

Spina bifida refers to the incomplete closure of the spinal column and the bones that surround the spinal cord. Problems that develop as a result of spina bifida are related to the malformation of the underlying spinal cord and the nervous system. The defect develops during the first twenty-eight days of pregnancy when the tube that will form the brain and spinal cord is developing.

It is common to describe the nature and severity of spinal cord involvement by determining the level of the spina bifida lesion. These include:

  • Thoracic (T1-T12, or above L1)
  • High Lumbar (L1-L3)
  • Low Lumbar (L4-L15)
  • Sacral (below S1)

There are many types of spina bifida, including occulta, meningocele, lipomeningocele and myelomeningocele, which is the most common type. The primary focus of this publication will address problems mainly seen in individuals born with a myelomeningocele and who have the most nervous system involvement. Students with other types of spina bifida and even milder forms of myelomeningocele may enter the school system with concerns that are specific and not as extensive as those with the more severe and complex forms of myelomeningocele as discussed here. It should be a goal of the teacher to see the student first as an individual, one who happens to have spina bifida, and then to identify appropriate accommodations, if needed.

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