50% of the incidence of intellectual disability is preventable. The Arc is committed to eliminating these preventable causes of intellectual disability and other developmental disabilities.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
"A pregnant woman never drinks alone."
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the leading known preventable cause of intellectual disabilities. FAS is a pattern of mental, physical and behavioral birth defects caused by drinking alcohol while pregnant. Even small amounts of alcohol may damage the fetus. FAS is 100% preventable by abstaining from alcohol while pregnant.
If you are pregnant, think you are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant... STOP drinking alcohol.
Neural Tube Defects
Recent studies have shown that women who take folic acid, a B vitamin, before and during the first two months of pregnancy can reduce the risk of birth defects known as neural tube defects including Spina Bifida by as much as 50%.
Good prenatal care increases the chances of preventing intellectual disabilities:
•Visit a health care provider as soon as you think you may be pregnant and, if possible, visit your doctor at least three months before you plan to become pregnant.
•Eat nutritious foods. A balanced diet including the right amount of the vitamins and minerals for pregnancy is very important. Ask your doctor for a healthy eating plan and prenatal vitamins.
•Avoid taking any medications including prescription, street and over the counter drugs without consulting your physician. Even common drugs such as aspirin should only be used if recommended by your doctor.
•Stop smoking and avoid second hand smoke.
•Avoid undercooked meat or handling cat litter or cleaning a bird cage. These are known sources of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can seriously affect the fetus.
•You may need to be immunized against rubella, chicken pox, and possibly hepatitis B as they may directly affect your baby. You may also need to be re-vaccinated against measles. Do not get vaccinated for Rubella while pregnant and wait at least three months after being vaccinated before getting pregnant.
•Avoid exposure to toxic substances such as chemicals and radiation. Avoid X-rays unless your doctor advises them knowing you are pregnant.
•Get genetic counseling if you may be at risk. You may want to consider genetic counseling if you are over age 35; you or your partner have a family history of genetic defects; you already have a child with a genetic disorder, unexplained intellectual disability or a birth defect; or you have had multiple miscarriages or stillbirths.
Well Baby Care
Visit your pediatrician and set up a schedule for well baby visits. Many health insurance providers have recognized the preventative benefits of well baby visits and provide coverage for them. Talk with your pediatrician about healthy parenting and prevention activities. Ask your physician his/her advice on the following items and anything else he/she deems important to prevention. There is new information from research released every day and you will want to know the most current information that will protect your child.
•Safety proof your home including but not limited to: covering electrical outlets, keeping all medicine and cleaning products locked away from children, blocking stairs, not placing babies near cords for blinds, keeping knives and other dangerous items out of reach, installing CO detectors, practicing kitchen safety, securing extension cords, keeping guns and other weapons locked and unavailable to children
•Fire proof your home: smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire drills pre planned escape routes and keeping exits clear are all good ideas.
•Car seats: always use car seats and seat belts and use them properly. Never place a car seat or child in an airbag seat.
•Helmets: ensure your child wears a helmet for all bicycling, skateboarding and roller bladeing.
•Swimming/water safety: Never leave children unattended near water (even in a bathtub or wading pool). Never let children dive into water less than 6 feet and always test the level first by jumping in feet first.
•Heat and cold: never leave a child alone in a car or other vehicle. Children have died from overheating or freezing.
•Sports: ensure children wear protective equipment, have medical clearance, proper supervision and don't chew gum while playing.
•Playing: ensure toys are age appropriate and do not have parts or pieces that can cause choking. Do not let children run with gum, candy, lollipops or the like in their mouth, do not let children blow up balloons as they can be sucked in and cause choking. Do not use toys for purposes for which they were not designed.
•Equipment: Check all equipment to see that it has been made by a reputable manufacturer and save the code numbers for potential recalls. Do not leave children unattended in swings, walkers and other types of equipment. Do not use automatic garage door openers around children, they have caused deaths.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
"Never shake a baby"
Shaking a baby can cause serious physical and mental damage including death.
According to the state of NJ Department of Health and Senior Services only a small number of children in NJ are screened for lead each year (6%) and of these more than 4,000 children have elevated lead levels. Lead poisoning can occur by eating lead or things with lead in them or by breathing lead dust. Eating paint chips, chewing on window sills painted with lead paint and even eating soil (may have lead from old gasoline, or outside paint)can cause lead poisoning. Also, scraping lead paint off walls can create dust that gets into the air and on things such as toys, bottles, pacifiers and the like. When a child puts the item in his/her mouth lead is ingested. Lead may also be present in water from old lead pipes and lead solder used to connect pipes. Colored newsprint, print on food wrappers, some toys from other countries, and old American, as well as current pottery and cookware items from other countries may contain lead.
For more information contact The Arc or The State's Childhood Lead Poisoning at Child Adolescent Health (609) 292- 5666 in Trenton.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Research shows that the incidence of SIDS can be reduced by placing babies on their backs instead of their stomachs for sleeping. Also never smoke around a baby.
The Arc has prevention information and speakers available on a variety of topics. Call The Arc's Family Support Department for Fact Sheets or to arrange for a speaker.