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Medical Challenges

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Students with disabilities face a range of medical challenges from learning disabilities to genetic disorders. The following is a partial list of common medical challenges and links to prominent advocacy groups. College View School and Glendale Unified School District have no affiliation with the groups listed and this page is for informational purposes only.

Angelman’s Syndrome

Angelman Syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes developmental delay and neurological problems. Infants with Angelman Syndrome appear normal at birth, but often have feeding problems in the first months of life and exhibit noticeable developmental delays by 6 to 12 months. Seizures often begin between 2 and 3 years of age. Speech impairment is pronounced, with little to no use of words. Individuals with this syndrome often display hyperactivity, small head size, sleep disorders, and movement and balance disorders that can cause severe functional deficits. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.)


Autism (sometimes called “classical autism”) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests. Other ASDs include Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism.
(Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.)

Cerebral Palsy

The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don’t worsen over time. Even though cerebral palsy affects muscle movement, it isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. It is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements. The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age. The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.)

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Epilepsy is not a single entity, but a family of more that 40 syndromes that affects about 3 million people in the USA and 50 million people worldwide. (Source: Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles)

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity – from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development – can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

In over thirty percent of patients, seizures cannot be controlled with treatment. Uncontrolled seizures may lead to brain damage and death. Many more have only partial control of their seizures. The severe epilepsy syndromes of childhood can cause developmental delay and brain damage, leading to a lifetime of dependency and continually accruing costs—both medical and societal. It is estimated that up to 50,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. from status epilepticus (prolonged seizures), Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), and other seizure-related causes such as drowning and other accidents. (Source: Cure Epilepsy)

Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. The extra chromosome causes problems with the way the body and brain develop. Down Syndrome is the most common single cause of human birth defects. Physical development is often slower than normal. Most children with Down Syndrome never reach their average adult height. Children may also have delayed mental and social development.

Many different medical conditions are seen in babies born with Down Syndrome, including:

  • Birth defects involving the heart such as an atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect
  • Eye problems such as cataracts
  • Gastrointestinal blockages such as esophageal atresia and duodenal atresia
  • Hearing problems
  • Hip dislocation
  • Sleep apnea
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

Children with Down Syndrome also have a higher risk for acute lymphocytic leukemia. (Source: Medline Plus)

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