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Causes and prevention of intellectual and developmental disabilities-Part 2

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Part I of this article reviewed many of the causes of intellectual and developmental disabilities among infants and children in the United States. Part II looks are what researchers over the past 50 years conclude as some the strategies found for preventing the occurrence of this disability.

Perhaps the most recognized event that offers hope against the fight against intellectual and developmental disabilities (and many other disabling conditions, including deafness and blindness) was the development of a vaccine to prevent rubella (German measles) in 1962. Prior to the introduction of this vaccine, pregnant women who contracted rubella had a nearly even chance of giving birth to a child with an intellectual and developmental disability. Since the introduction of this vaccine, women who intended to have children are encouraged to be vaccinated before their pregnancy occurs. The most recent information reports success in the near elimination of this form of intellectual and developmental disability.

Another method for identifying children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is the screening/testing techniques. Many of these techniques detect disabilities following conception. Some do not consider many of these screening/testing techniques to be authentic methods of for preventing intellectual and developmental disabilities if the pre-born child’s life is terminated by an abortion. In the literature, these techniques are mentioned both as preventive and screening.

One of these is amniocentesis. Amniocentesis requires withdrawing a sample of fluid from the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus during the third trimester of a pregnancy (generally during the 14th through 17th week). Fetal cells are removed from the amniotic fluid and allowed to develop in a cell culture for roughly two weeks. The parents are informed with regards to the in utero child’s circumstance.

Genetic counseling consists of counseling between a specially trained medical professional with potential parents about their potential for giving birth to a child/children with a disability. Ultimately, having children will be the decision of the parents. Such information has been reported as a valuable tool.

Newborn screening tests for inherited conditions and biomedical risk factors are now mandatory in every state. The tandem mass spectrometry was developed in the late 1980’s to test and measure blood, urine, or plasma in roughly 2 minutes to determine the presence of nearly 30 metabolic disorders leading to intellectual and developmental disabilities. At birth, nearly every newborn child is given a blood test to reduce the incidence of phenylketonuria (PKU). By analyzing the level of phenylalanine, the medical doctor can diagnose for PKU and treat it with a phenylalanine restricted diet. This has resulted in individuals who developed normal intellectual development and growth.

A class of substances, pollutants, and abuse of both legal and illegal medications and drugs are major causes of preventable intellectual and developmental disabilities. Education along with training over the past 50 years have been found to have significantly reduced the incidence of intellectual and developmental disabilities among the American population. The allied medical sciences believe more research and education can reduce the incidence of intellectual and developmental disabilities even more to level well below the 50% level.

As noted in this article, most children with intellectual and developmental disabilities are in the mild range (85%). Their disability is usually not discovered or identified until they reach preschool or elementary school when they fall significantly behind their peers. These are the children whose delays in their intellectual and social development result from an impoverish environment. Whatever the circumstance, many medical professionals believe educating the general public is the key for reductions in intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as continuing medical research.

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