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Educational Supports

It is important to have HIGH LEARNING EXPECTATIONS for children who have Congenital Heart Defects. Encourage use of the core educational curriculum and modify it in order to meet the individual needs of the child.

What you need to know

Although the reasons are not completely understood at this time, it does appear that individuals with a complex CHD may be at increased risk for neurodevelopmental issues, developmental disabilities, delays in cognitive functions of the brain, and in the brain’s relationship with emotion, behavior, and motor skills. However, not all children with CHD have neurodevelopmental problems and those who do usually don’t have severe delays.

The following may be more common in individuals with a CHD

  • ADHD
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Impaired social interaction
  • Impairments in core communication skills
  • Speech and language and motor skills
  • Deficits in attention

Neurodevelopmental disorders associated with more complex CHDs may be caused by:

  • Genetic syndromes that include a congenital heart defect
  • Medical and surgical treatment required for the CHD
  • Poor circulation
  • Living with day-to-day stress of having a chronic or serious heart condition
  • Defects that are more serious
    • For example, some have required open-heart surgery as an infant or have caused the child to appear bluish due to poor circulation.

Studies have shown that other risk factors for developmental disorders include having a combination of both congenital heart disease and one of the following:

  • Premature birth
  • Developmental delays as a baby
  • Suspected genetic abnormality or syndrome
  • A history of mechanical support to help the heart
  • Heart transplantation
  • A history of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Prolonged hospitalization during the child's heart care
  • Seizures related to heart surgery
  • Brain abnormalities seen in brain images

What you can do

Educational supports:

  • Treat the educational issues  as you would for other children
  • Speech and language therapy and supports that are individualized to the child may be helpful
  • Support social skills development
  • Misconceptions of abilities can cause insecurity and anxiety in social situations
  • Make sure teaching strategies being used are appropriate for children who are already socially engaged.
  • Provide social cues and coaching.

Physical Therapy:

  • Develop gross motor abilities
  • Improve strength

Center for Parent Information and Resources:

  • You may want additional information about your child’s disability, early intervention, school services, therapy, local policies, transportation, and much more. Every state in the USA has at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to offer families just this kind of information. To find your state’s center, go to the Center for Parent Information and Resources.