Research Shows That Very Sick Kids Might Have A Lower IQ

Sick Kids Might Have Learning Difficulties

Serious illnesses in young children are extremely dangerous because their immune system isn’t strong enough yet to fight off disease. In the past, very sick children didn’t have much of a chance of recovering from potentially life-threatening diseases. The good news is, today medicine has advanced far enough to be able to save their lives. Previously fatal conditions can be cured in young children and their life expectancy has increased significantly. But there is a catch. Research is beginning to show that when children fall seriously sick at a young age, their IQ levels can drop in the long term.

Diseases The Study Examined

The Survey Studied 6 Common Serious Illnesses

To find the hidden link between illness and IQ levels, researchers examined a number of children who suffered from six specific serious illnesses: leukemia, sickle cell disease, brain tumors, congenital heart disease, type 1 diabetes and traumatic brain injuries. Knowing the long-term effects of these diseases is important because at least 4 million children

in the United States suffer from them. This means that potentially, 4 million children could be underperforming at school and jeopardizing their future employment prospects.

Results Of The Survey

The findings of the study are sobering to say the least. A very high percentage of the children examined showed significant disruption to the normal functioning of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the seat of most of our cognitive abilities. It’s where our learning takes place, it controls our decision-making skills and our memory powers. Unsurprisingly, if your prefrontal cortex is damaged, you’re going to face difficulties at school and in your day-to-day life. Among the children surveyed, most showed a drop by at least 3 IQ points.

Causes For Drop In IQ

Apart from the disease itself, the treatment for the disease and the high stress children experience during treatment can contribute to the

drop in IQ points. Treatments which affect development in children, especially for brain injuries, tumors and acute leukemia, can have long-term effects on intelligence. Children who suffered from a brain tumor showed an IQ drop of as much as 12 points and performed below 80% of their class. Social situations can also exacerbate the impact of an illness of a child. The study found that children from lower income groups showed a greater drop in IQ levels than children coming from middle and upper income levels. This could be because children whose families are financially strapped have additional stress to cope with.

Treatment To Prevent An IQ Drop

However, in many cases, this IQ drop is not inevitable. Timely intervention during and after the treatment can prevent a child from developing damage to the prefrontal cortex. In many cases, when a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, their parents put all their efforts into helping the child survive and recover. Puzzles, books

and other learning tools parents often occupy their children with get relegated to the background. This means that the child misses out on vital mental stimulation other kids their age get, as a result of which their IQ might suffer.

Telling parents to not ignore the learning process of their children is an easy suggestion to make, but not always rational. Parents who are already under high emotional, physical and financial stress simply don’t have the time to do this. This is where the study recommends involving trained professional into your child’s routine. These experts analyze the child’s disease and come up with the best treatment plan to prevent cognitive deterioration. Studies show that two forms of therapy in particular are very effective: cognitive behavioral therapy and computer-based cognitive remediation programs. These two therapies continue to hone a child’s cognitive skills and prevent long-term damage to their IQ levels. Most of these therapies work by helping a child deal with stress. Stress is usually the biggest factor in cognitive deficiencies in very ill children. By helping them reduce the effects of

stress on their brain, these forms of therapy give sick children a shot at a perfectly normal life.