Neurochemistry and the Adopted Child

Karyn Purvis, a professor at TCU and the author of The Connected Child, discusses how children’s brain neurochemistry can be negatively changed due to early life experiences, causing the child to have learning, social, and behavioral issues. Neurochemicals are the chemicals in the brain that send signals. So if the brain is not sending the right signals this can affect the brain directly as well as the child’s behavior.

There are six major risk factors to a child’s healthy brain development:

  • Difficult pregnancy:
    This can include drugs, alcohol, and a mother’s dealing with stressful situations.
  • Difficult birth:
    If the mother had a prolonged labor in which child was removed harshly by forceps, this can cause bleeding in capillaries in brain.
  • Early hospitalization:
    Usually an infant will have received less touch, disrupted time with mother, painful procedures, and overstimulation due to medical equipment and procedures. This can be experienced as neglect by the infant and the overstimulation can result in impaired sensory response. Continue reading

Adopting the HIV Positive Child, Part II

Because HIV infection is so serious, and children and adults alike are more prone to other infections, keeping a child strong and healthy is very important. And because children do not have the same reserves as adults, good nutrition is especially important for them.  In poorer countries and in orphanages, where children oftentimes receive less than optimum nutrition, their bodies are further compromised and more prone to infection.

That is why in other countries, orphanages dedicated to the care of HIV positive children receive extra funding  and attention so that the children can receive the extra medical and nutritional care that they need.

If you are considering adopting an HIV positive child, most likely you are adopting a child who is a true orphan and you will truly be giving a child the gift of life. We at Nightlight will be featuring children from Eastern Europe and Africa who are HIV positive. There are certainly considerations that need be taken before you and your family decide to adopt a child who is HIV positive and you will want to be well educated regarding HIV and AIDS in general and the issues you and a and HIV-positive child will face. Continue reading

Medical Providers and Therapists for Internationally Adopted Children

If you are adopting internationally, you know that there are two particularly critical times that you want professional medical assistance from someone who knows about international adoption: when you get a referral, and when you come home. Nightlight has compiled a state-by-state listing of Medical Providers that specialize in helping internationally adopted children. The list also includes Therapists we know of that have experience counseling families that have adopted internationally. This guide can be found at our International Adoption Resources page.

Spina Bifida Occulta: Part II

bigstock_Adorable_Asian_Baby_With_Spark_938600Spina Bifida Occulta (SPO) is considered the least detrimental of the Spina bifida disorders, and is estimated to affect 10-20% of the population, so clearly many people have the disorder and do not know. The children from China or other countries who have no symptoms would not be classified as having special needs. However, there are types of SPO that do have symptoms.

These are the main categories of Spina Bifida Occulta

  • Thickened filum terminal: The spinal cord is too thick.
  • Fatty filum terminale: There is fatty tissue at end of the spinal cord.
  • Diastematomyelia (split spinal cord) and diplomyelia: The spinal cord is split in two and this split is often caused by a piece of bone.
  • Dermal sinus tract: The spinal cord and the skin on the back are connected by what looks like a band of tissue.
  • Tethered spinal cord in which the end of spinal cord is attached in the wrong way and, therefore, becomes stretched
  • Dipomyelomeningocele and lipomeningocele where the spinal cord is attached to a fatty tumor [1] Continue reading

Clubfoot: Pre-Adoption Assessment of a Child Referral–Part III

young-asian-doctor-filling-out-medical-chartIn the past two blog posts, we discussed what clubfoot is, the types, and the treatments. Certainly what causes clubfoot may impact the type of treatment your child will receive.  So how do you know the severity of clubfoot your child may have?

What treatment, if any, has the child already had in China? What medical services will your child need once here in the US? And how well will your child fare after receiving castings or surgery?

These are all questions you should ask when presented with a referral of a child with clubfoot. At Nightlight, we will answer as many of these questions as possible. Often we may not have all the information on a child, but we can usually get more as it is always our goal to provide our families with all the information present.

Also, you will want to have a child‘s pictures and medical reports sent to an international medical specialist. There are many health care professionals who provide evaluation services as well as post-adoption services once your child is home. Nightlight has an extensive list of health care providers—some who provide assessment services. Contact Michelle@nightlight to send you this list. For a child with clubfoot, you may want someone whose specialty is clubfoot to evaluate your child’s referral pictures and medical report.

Once a physician looks at your child’s record and sees their pictures, the doctor may have more specific questions. This may require our China coordinator to contact the orphanage staff to gather further information– if the information is available. Continue reading

Clubfoot: Treatments – Part II

clubfeet in castsLast week we discussed what causes clubfoot.  Depending upon what caused the clubfoot and the severity of the clubfoot, there are different levels and types of treatment.  For example, if a child has clubfoot because of the child’s position in the womb, then the foot may be adjusted through physical therapy. Nearly all children with clubfoot are treated with serial castings and braces.  Those who have other complications, such as spina bifida, may need surgery.  Yet, one study showed even children with other medical issues may be able to be also treated through castings and braces, [reference 1] although some studies show that they probably need more intensive treatment. [2]

Treatment usually begins at 1 week old to 2-and-a-half years old.[2]  Most children are treated with the Ponseti method, which involves serial castings.  These are casts that are put on every week to few weeks; each time the castings go on, they slowly change the position of the foot. [1]  For example, a child may have 6 castings done between one and 3 months old.  Of course, if your child is in China, he may not be receiving such treatment.

Once the series of castings are done , the child will usually wear a foot adjunction brace to keep the foot in proper position — much as people wear retainers after having braces on their teeth.  Like a retainer, these shoe braces are initially worn nearly all the time and then just at night. Continue reading

Clubfoot: A Special Need of Children from China – Part I

This is part one in a 4-part series on clubfoot.  Next week we will discuss the treatment for clubfoot, the prognosis and what you can expect as a parent of a child with clubfoot.  In addition, we will discuss the types of children who are available and what you can do if you are interested in adopting one of these children who are members of the In His Image program.
clubfeet - infantMany of the more than 2,000 children who are on the China special needs list have clubfoot.  In general, it is condition that can be readily treated and treatment may begin while the child is still in China.

What is Clubfoot?

It is called congenital talipes equinovarus,  and is one of the most common deformities of the lower limbs [reference 1].  It involves the bone and soft tissue, usually causing one or both feet to be turned sideways or upward. In most cases, a club foot twists the top of the child’s foot downward and inward. If it is severe, the foot will look like it is upside down.

This is congenital malformation, which means the child is born with the condition. Talipes equinovarus (TEV) is a type of clubfoot that occurs in 95% of children with the condition. Continue reading

Part III: What Parents Can Do If a Child Has an SPD

DaughterHelpingDadwithTieIf your child is having behavioral problems and seems to have difficulty in every day tasks, you may first want to assess if your child has sensory problems. Many counselors may first require your child to have a complete physical evaluation to rule-out certain physiological and neurological problems. There are self-reporting tests, based on your child’s behavior, which you can take to determine if your child meets one or more criteria of an SPD. EEGs and other brain imaging tests holds promise for making a diagnosis—especially of an auditory processing disorder.

If your child does have an SPD and does require occupational therapy, you will want to be actively involved in the exercises and play. An hour or two per week of therapy will not be as effective as your continuing these learned activities throughout the week with your child. Also, an OT can help you change the environment so that your child can better manage stimuli within your home.

SPDs are often associated with other disorders and disabilities, so other professionals may need to be involved. It is not uncommon for children with SPDs to have other delays and may need to be treated by speech pathologists and other specialists.

Continue reading

Part II Why Children Develop Sensory Processing Disorders

BabyFeetWhy children develop SPDs is not clearly understood. The brain functions in these children may be different, and there may be a hereditary component to SPDs. Prenatal environment, including an exposure to alcohol stress hormones, may also increase the risk of SPDs.

Certainly early infanthood experiences may be related to SPDs. Babies who have difficulty with sleep and feeding patterns and are unable to calm themselves are more like to have sensory processing problems as toddlers .

Children living in an underprivileged environment, such as orphanages, are also at an increased risk of SPDs. Parents of Romanian orphans reported that 18 % of their children were hypersensitive to stimuli and another 11 % inappropriately under-responded to stimuli. Studies found that children who spent the first 12 months to 24 years in an orphanage had more problem behaviors and were the most likely to have sensory processing problems. Even when the children’s physical needs are met in an orphanage, including good medical care and proper nutrition, the lack of consistent care and stimulation can lead to sensorimotordelays. Continue reading