Factors affecting the development of mathematical concepts in children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus

Gallagher, Moira (1985). Factors affecting the development of mathematical concepts in children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d68a


Previous research (Tew and Laurence 1972) suggested that children with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus had particular difficulties in the development of mathematical concepts. This research considered factors which may affect such development and consisted of two main sections.

Firstly research was carried out in a school for physically handicapped children. This involved the use of the Young Group Mathematics Test with groups within the school, and detailed case studies of nine children with Myelomeningocele and Hydrocephalus, all of whom were in the same year group. Secondly, large scale data on approximately 600 children with Spina Bifida, from Sheffield Children's Hospital, was analysed. The analysis was broken down into groups based on diagnosis, these being; Myelomeningocele with and without shunts and Meningocele. They were also sub-divided into four groups based on ability in arithmetic as measured on the WISC. A large number of variables and their relationship to arithmetic were considered. The main variables were diagnosis, presence of shunt, ventricle-brain ratio, thickness of neonatal cortex, circumference of head at birth, mobility, level and extent of lesion, continence, intelligence and school placement. Frequently the children with the greatest degree of Hydrocephalus are also the most physically handicapped so additional data for children diagnosed as having 'Congenital' Hydrocephalus only was employed to try and separate out the effects of mobility from the other neurological variables.

The data led to the conclusion that it is the neurological damage present in children with Hydrocephalus which has the most direct effect on the development of mathematical concepts, although this would be influenced by the degree of physical disability and related environmental factors. Suggestions are made as to how to help these children to develop mathematical concepts. An early start is recommended regarding the training of selective attention to attempt to overcome the distractibility which is a frequent concomitant of neurological damage. After this a carefully structured approach to the teaching of maths is recommended.

However, since the most significant correlations with maths ability were with neurological damage, preventative measures must also be concerned with the immediacy and efficacy of shunt surgery.

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