Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dr. Google fails miserably with regards to trying to find out the current thinking on the effects of prenatal meth exposure. You get lots of studies about underweight rats and warnings about behavior and attention disorders and learning disabilities, but that's pretty much it.

Our developmental evaluation was yesterday. We were lucky enough to get in with one of the best in the state. I'm still fairly shellshocked from all that we were told, and I don't want to get into Huck's specifics, but I do want to tell y'all some of what we learned. (Edited to add: these things represent what we're dealing with now, and of course Yondalla's caveat applies.)

Even though meth hasn't been around long enough for there to be an accurate pathology for the meth-exposed child, there's still more known than "underweight and hyper."

The majority of exposed kids can either be characterized as either hummingbirds or snails.

Meth has more of an effect on the right brain as opposed to the left brain. This can result in subtle physical deformities on the left side of the body, such as reduced ear size, abnormal hair whorls on the head, reduced dexterity in the left hand, and a smaller left eye. In the case of a smaller left eye, the eyelid will appear to droop (think Paris Hilton), and the vision is often compromised. Often, the two eyes aren't weakened in the same way -- one is nearsighted and the other farsighted. With the smaller ear, it isn't just the visible ear, but all the working parts, too, and kids are much more prone to ear infections, effusions, and compromised hearing.

Heart defects, especially valve defects, are appearing more and more.

Sleep apnea is big. I also learned that sleep apnea causes brain damage to the tune of 1-2 IQ points per month. First step are meds like Singulair and Flonase. If those don't work, the tonsils and adenoids are the best next step.

Meth kids are about 3x more likely to have brain scans like those of kids with ADHD. (Did you know that ADHD meds can rebuild pathways in the brain?)

Pot-exposed kids have trouble, too. I can't recall the name of the stuff that gets blocked in their brains, and I'm just trying to get this out, but it results in not understanding (their own or others') personal space. There's other stuff, too, but that information is probably widely available.

And I'm probably the last person on earth to know this, but it turns out there's a really big staph infection problem going on. Because of that, we're supposed to keep Huck off Z-packs, just in case he gets one, and just in case he gets a resistant strain, lest he have to spend weeks in the hospital. Old school antibiotics are the new black.

In addition to all the stuff we learned above, Huck is now eligible for special ed. In the fall, he'll be going to the public school's pre-K (the state-sponsored early intervention program) five days a week, with at least an hour a day with one-on-one attention. (As testament to my "new normal," I am overjoyed that my baby qualifies for special ed...)

Huck's test scores weren't too bad at all, actually. He tested 7 months behind on his Leiter nonverbal and 6 months behind on the picture vocabulary. Unfortunately, he could have tested much higher, but 1/4 through each test he announced that he was done, and from then on just pointed at the same square over and over again (for the ppvt), and slid the blocks into the spaces in whatever order they were handed to him on the Leiter. I was so frustrated. On the verbal, one of the earlier words was "delivering," which he got right, but then he missed "fountain" toward the end. He knows what a fountain is. For both tests, he aced the first 3 minutes, then crashed and burned.

If I thought we had a lot of appointments when I wrote the last post, then I suppose we have an assload of appointments lined up now. Cardiologist, opthamologist, audiologist, ear-nose-thoat, psychiatrist, psychologist, school district, radiology, blahbedy blahbedy.

Something else we learned was that, if you're able to get medicaid after adoption, don't put the child on your health insurance at all. If doctors are working with two insurance companies, it is two sets of paperwork to fill out, and the extra $20 they'd get from your insurance costs them about $10 in wages or time, so very few docs (those that have their own practice and do the majority of paperwork themselves, that is) want to mess around with it. Doctors that are part of a medical group probably don't care as much.

In all, I'm feeling like someone worked me over with a bag of oranges, Grifters-style.


Tudu said...

Welcome to my world of appointments but multiply it by 6 special needs kids. I meet my adult conversation quota in the waiting rooms of these appointments. LOL

Baggage said...

I hear you. I was THRILLED when my two qualified for special services. And on the positive side, you will be able to have a little break when he is at school, right?

I was just looking at my calendar and I don't have a free day until next Saturday and I'm sure that will be filled up in the next few days. In some ways though, I like it. I do better with scheduled time, rather than time we sit at home and go nuts.

I didn't know that about ADHD meds. I have tried to look up meth info before, I've been told that they just aren't sure of long term effects because it hasn't been around that long.

I think a large part of Bug's issues come from drug exposure. That is why I believe so strongly in having her on medication. Her brain needs it to fill in the gaps that the drugs created.

Gawdess said...

I think the refusal to finish the testing would have made me crazy too!

Take care, glad to hear he will be in the kindergarten program.

Yondalla said...

you probably know this, but allow me to rattle on, if you don't mind.

It can be very difficult to determine the effects of both legal and illegal drugs on developing fetuses because controlled drug studies on pregnant women (for the legal ones, of course) are not ethical. For illegal drugs, there is the additional problem of multiple drug use. Nearly all mothers who abuse an illegal drug also abuse alcohol. This means that sorting out the effects of different substances is challenging at best.

And of course, there are issues regarding the difficulty of getting accurate information regarding what drugs were used when, and to what extent various problem the children have should be attributed to other environmental factors.

There is so much that we don't know and CAN'T find out, because there is no way to do a study ethically.

Maggie said...

I've been doing those same Google searches. The case workers don't think Slugger's mom was on meth when he was born (though she did drink and smoke pot). They know she was on meth when pregnant with Slugger's brother, though.

I'm glad Huck is going to get some services. That's a good thing.

Mary said...

I'm curious about the abnormal hair whorls. Both my sons have the weirdest hair growth and we know bio mom was using meth. Where can I find more info?

Mom2Many said...

Wow, I would love it if you could post some of your sources. I have a friend with a foster that was possibly exposed to meth.

FosterMom said...

Your post was very informative. I have a set of sibling foster children that we will be adopting before year's end. The oldest was meth exposed prenatally, the youngest was born with meth, amph, & pot in her system. Your information is very helpful, and I plan on exploring it further. Thankfully, we've seen no signs yet of the drugs affecting the kiddos (they are 17 months and 4 months right now) but who knows what will show up in the future.