Restoring mental function in retarded children?
January 3, 2011 12:19 AM   Subscribe

Is there any ground breaking hope for a pre-teen who was born with mental retardation due to the umbilical cord wrapped tight around the neck while in the womb (restricting blood flow to the brain)?

I know a child who suffers from this since birth and at the age of around 10 is still wearing diapers and can't walk or talk, but otherwise looks her age (located in Vienna). The mother seems destined to be nursing the child for the rest of her life. I'm sure over the many years, doctors gave her the best available advice. But I would like to know if there is anything out there that can improve brain function in the child.
posted by gttommy to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately no: hypoxic brain injuries are irreversible.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 12:48 AM on January 3, 2011

There is some research into whether stem cells might be able to help repair brain injuries. Like a lot of stem cell research, it is pretty early stage.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:13 AM on January 3, 2011

Looking at MuffinMan's papers, the window of opportunity for repair, even with the most optimistic of the linked papers, seems to be a few days. Ten years is far too long.

While there is a lot of genuine research going on with stem cells, there are an awful lot of quacks out there who have jumped on the stem cell bandwagon. I'd worry that mentioning this to her could possibly push her in the direction of those quacks.

A supportive and stimulating environment that maximises communication ('can't talk' does mean 'can't communicate') will be maximising her function, just like any other kid. In terms of the kid's mother, then advocacy for the best services, getting her respite when she needs it, all of those things are very important. The best solutions are often not the medical ones!
posted by Coobeastie at 2:56 AM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd imagine Vienna, like the U.S., has federally-funded Day Hab programs for the developmentally disabled. They don't provide medical treatment (science is not at the point where this type of injury can be reversed) but they help each person learn skills and have experiences that are tailored to his or her level of functioning. This also gives the child or adult a place to go during the day in lieu of school or work, and lets the parent lead a more normal life as well.

It really depends on this child's particular disability, but there are voice-output technologies and a variety of power wheelchairs that can tremendously increase independence and communication abilities. Brain function can't be restored, but a disabled child's life can be dramatically and fundamentally improved with the right services.
posted by tetralix at 5:45 AM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the input, at least it is a little more certain now that there isn't anything I could've missed.
posted by gttommy at 2:23 AM on January 4, 2011

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