According to recent studies, 50% of the incidence of intellectual and developmental disabilities is preventable. The Arc of Somerset County is committed to reducing and/or eliminating these preventable causes of intellectual developmental disabilities.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
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.
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.
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 carbon monoxide 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.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
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 and pacifiers. 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.