Hydrocephalus - quick teaching tips

Every child with hydrocephalus is unique and each one will have individual strengths and skills. Following operations or procedures to relieve the pressure of cerebrospinal fluid, the brains and nervous systems of children with hydrocephalus have developed in similar, and, in some cases, very different ways to typically developing children. 

Creative thinking in the classroom by educators, and at home by parents and carers too, will help a child with hydrocephalus function better when learning new skills. 

Classroom Management Tips 

  • Ensure that a child with hydrocephalus sits near the front of the classroom with a clear view of all boards and screens being used. 
  • Children with hydrocephalus sometimes have difficulty with waiting for tasks to begin so having other children in the class to model the action required helps when turn-taking. This gives the child time to settle in their seat and prepare for learning before their task begins. 
  • When giving instructions, repeat them in written and spoken forms for the child on a regular basis throughout lessons. 
  • Visual prompts, such as personal timetables and social stories, maintain the sequence of instructions and processes. 
  • Older children may require electronic devices to support their learning, provide scaffolding for processes and to prompt action. 
  • Children with fine motor skills difficulties may find laptops or tablets easier for recording their answers and responses. 
  • Young children find egg-timers useful to remind them how much time they have to complete a task. 
  • Prefix instructions and questions with the name of the child to re-affirm the command or question. This ensures that the child identifies with the instruction and that it includes them. 
  • Clear instructions should be given, so that a literal message is provided for the child.  
  • Irony, sarcasm, jokes and reading body language can make communication and social talk difficult for a child with hydrocephalus so straightforward communication is preferred. 
  • Noise levels can be distracting for a child with hydrocephalus, as can extreme quiet where the ticking of a clock can be heard. A break-out space or quiet area is an important option for a child with noise sensitivity. 
  • Resources used for pupils with other learning needs, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, can be effective for children with hydrocephalus too. Multi-sensory reading activities are often effective. 
  • Hydration is vital for all children and particularly for children with hydrocephalus. It is important that a child with hydrocephalus has plenty of water throughout the day because brain function can be affected when a child is dehydrated. 
  • Fatigue is often a difficulty for children with a condition like hydrocephalus 

The Learning Environment 

The developing brain of a child with hydrocephalus needs to be nurtured by being taught to make connections to help to function effectively. Neural plasticity and the adaptive capacity of the nervous system gives educators the opportunity to teach children with hydrocephalus to form these new neural connections. 

The low profile of hydrocephalus and the complex subtleties of how the condition presents in different children can lead to difficulties in education settings.  

The effects of hydrocephalus can have many overlaps with other neurological conditions and the teaching techniques outlined in SEN Support planning for the different effects of hydrocephalus can be useful. 

Children with hydrocephalus can thrive and achieve in line with their peers by their teachers having a clear understanding of the particular possible effects of their condition, and the modification of teaching methods and small changes to classroom management that may be required. 

Creating a multi-sensory environment – tips and resources 

Some children with hydrocephalus have sensory processing problems, which appear similar to the difficulties children with autism experience. 

There are many techniques to prevent children from being bewildered by their environment. It is imperative that supportive strategies are in place at an early stage so that they become part of the child’s daily routine. Making Sense of Sensory Behaviour - a paper by the Children with Disabilities Team, Falkirk Council Children’s Services – provides helpful guidance.

Need more help?

If you need to speak with one of Shine’s specialist advisers about spina bifida or hydrocephalus, call us on 01733 555988 or click here to email us.

Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. We aim to respond to all enquiries as quickly as possible!

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