Children born with spina bifida meningomyelocele have a well known spine malformation that is responsible for the identification as a child with spina bifida at birth. The spine malformation is associated with a variety of problems, including difficulties with ambulation, bladder problems, and other factors that often lead to physical disability. However, what is often not recognized is that children with spina bifida meningomyelocele usually have characteristic malformations of the brain that result not only in hydrocephalus, but in longer term learning difficulties that interfere with school functioning and behavioral adaptation.
Learning deficiencies that characterize many children with spina bifida meningomyelocele include deficiencies in non-verbal skills, including motor, perceptual-motor, and visual-spatial skills. Many children with spina bifida meningomyelocele have a particular type of learning disability called a “non-verbal” learning disability. Non-verbal learning disabilities are associated with social problems, particularly as the child enters adolescence. This problems is a result of the interaction of the cognitive difficulties and the types of response that many children with spina bifida meningomyelocele receive from the environment. As adolescents, some children with spina bifida meningomyelocele may become more lethargic and somewhat depressive, showing tendencies towards social isolation.