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What kinds of exercises can people who are confined to wheelchairs do to build upper body strength?

The type of exercises that are needed depends upon the underlying reason for needing a wheelchair. A spinal cord–injured person will have residual muscle deficits. A person with a stroke may not have full function or control of an upper extremity. A person with muscle disease may need to avoid overexerting the muscle. The key to strength training involves strengthening the muscles in the anterior (front) and posterior (back) of the thoracic area. Anterior thoracic exercises focus on the pectoralis muscles (bench press) and biceps (bicep curls). Posterior thoracic exercises focus on the back muscles (seated rows and lateral pull downs) and triceps. A trainer should overlook your exercises to assure proper technique and avoid any injury.

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability doesn’t leave visible signs. LD is a disorder that affects people’s ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. These limitations can show up in many ways – with spoken and written language, coordination, self–control, or attention. Such difficulties extend to schoolwork and can impede learning to read or write, or to do math.

Learning disabilities can be lifelong conditions that, in some cases, affect many parts of a person’s life: school or work, daily routines, family life, and sometimes even friendships and lay. In some people, many overlapping learning disabilities may be apparent. Other people may have a slight learning problem that has little impact on their lives.

What causes learning disabilities?

Understandably, one of the first questions parents ask when they learn their child has a learning disorder is "Why? What went wrong?" Mental health professionals stress that since no one knows what causes learning disabilities, it doesn’t help parents to look backward to search for possible reasons. There are too many possibilities to pin down the cause of the disability with certainty. It is far more important for the family to move forward in finding ways to get the fight help. Scientists, however, do need to study causes in an effort to identify ways to prevent learning disabilities. Once, scientists thought that all learning disabilities were caused by a single neurological problem. But research supported by NIMH has helped us see that the causes are more diverse and complex. New evidence seems to show that most learning disabilities do not stem from a single, specific area of the brain, but from difficulties in bringing together information from various brain regions. Today, a leading theory is that learning disabilities stem from subtle disturbances in brain structures and functions. Some scientists believe that, in many cases, the disturbance begins before birth.

Other factors that affect brain development?

Genetic Factors – The fact that learning disabilities tend to run in families indicates that there may be a genetic link. For example, children who lack some of the skills needed for reading, such as hearing the separate sounds of words, are likely to have a parent with a related problem. Possibly, what is inherited is a subtle brain dysfunction that can in turn lead to a learning disability.

Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drug Use – Many drugs taken by the mother pass directly to the fetus. Research shows that a mother’s use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy may have damaging effects on the unborn child.

Complications during pregnancy – In some cases, the mother’s immune system reacts to the ferns and attacks it as if it were an infection. During delivery, the umbilical cord may become twisted and temporarily cut off oxygen to the fetus. This, too, can impair brain functions and lead to LD.

Toxins in the Child’s Environment – New brain cells and neural networks continue to be produced for a year or so after the child is born. These cells are vulnerable to certain disruptions, also. Researchers are looking into environmental toxins that may lead to learning disabilities, possibly by disrupting childhood brain development or brain processes. Cadmium and lead, both prevalent in the environment, are becoming a leading focus of neurological research.

Are learning disabilities related to differences in the brain?

In comparing people with and without learning disabilities, scientists have observed certain differences in the structure and functioning of the brain. In people with dyslexia, the two structures were found to be equal in size. In people who are not dyslexic, however, the left planum temporale was noticeably larger. Some scientists believe reading problems may be related to such differences.

What is autism?

Autism is a type of developmental disability characterized by impairments in communication, social interaction and behavior. Some doctors speculate that autism may be the result of a specific brain injury or brain abnormality that occurred during brain development (before birth) or early in infancy. Others have found evidence that the disorder is a result of abnormal levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages between cells in the brain and nerves).

How do I recognize autism in my child?

The first signs of autism may appear in infants who display abnormal responses to being touched. Instead of cuddling when they are picked up, they may stiffen or go limp. It is usually not until the child is 2 or 3 years old that the parents realize something is wrong. By that age, the toddler shows little interest in others. Some behavioral clues to the presence of autism include: disordered play, disordered speech and repetitive behaviors.

What exactly is ‘Spina bifida’?

An incomplete closure of the spinal column that occurs before your baby is born, spina bifida leaves a baby’s legs weak or paralyzed. In the most severe form, other possible problems include excessive fluid around the brain, difficulty with bowel and bladder control, deformities of the hips, knees, and feet, and learning disabilities. While children with spina bifida can live a normal lifespan, they need care by a team of specialists. In addition to a pediatrician, a neurosurgeon, urologist, physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon are some of the members of their health care team.