Hydrocephalus comes from two Greek words:  ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘cephalus’ meaning head.  Hydrocephalus was also commonly called ‘water on the brain’.


There are two types of Hydrocephalus, congenital (present at birth) and acquired (by injury, trauma to the brain).


Our brains are surrounded by a fluid known as CSF, (cerebral spinal fluid), which is constantly made and circulated.  CSF is produced in the ventricles, circulates through the ventricular system through the brain and is absorbed into the blood stream.  It has many functions.   It acts as a protective cushion for the brain and spinal cord.  CSF contains nutrients and proteins the brain needs for nourishment and normal function and also carries waste away from the surrounding tissue.


When there is a problem with absorbing the CSF into the bloodstream, it starts to build up in the brain causing swelling.  This swelling can lead to a multiple of symptoms including:  enlarged head (for babies), vision problems, lethargy, irritability, vomiting, headaches, balance problems and memory issues.  These symptoms are varied and varied in degree with each individual.

Other problems that can be associated with hydrocephalus and they vary from person to person. Some problems may be:

  • Learning disabilities. Although individuals are able to learn, they may require special modifications and assistance.
  • Memory deficits
  • Psychological deficits
  • Motor Skill disabilities
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing difficulties,
  • Seizures, and
  • Hormonal imbalances.
  • Sensitivity to sound, pressure and bright lights may also be associated with the condition.

Because each case is individualized, generalizations in this category are difficult to make.


When not treated immediately, Hydrocephalus can permanently damage the brain and cause physical and mental developmental problems.  If untreated, it can be fatal.


CT Scan and/or MRI are the tests done to check for or confirm Hydrocephalus.  These machines take pictures of the brain and ventricles to show swelling, flow issues, blockages and any other details that will help them determine the reason or cause of the symptoms.


Hydrocephalus is not curable, but treatable.  Typically, shunts are used to treat Hydrocephalus.  A shunt is flexible tubing that is inserted into the ventricle(s) and then fed to another region of the body, usually the abdominal cavity where the fluid can be absorbed.  It also can be fed to one of the heart chambers as well.  At the ‘top’ of the shunt, in between the skin and the skull a valve is placed, which regulates the CSF flow.  The valve has a pressure setting and once that pressure is reached, it kicks in and diverts the CSF to the other region and the CSF is then absorbed there.


There is another treatment for Hydrocephalus called, Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy (ETV), but not everyone is a candidate for this procedure.  You can find more information on this procedure here: http://www.hydroassoc.org/education_support/faq#22


Shunts are still prone to issues.  They can become infected and/or become blocked.  If they become infected, they are removed, replaced and treated with antibiotics.  If they become blocked, and there is no infection, the part that is blocked, can usually be replaced.


When an individual’s health has been good for a period of time, check up CT Scans are done yearly (depending on individual) as well, a shunt survey, which is an x-ray to make sure there is enough tubing in the abdominal cavity for growth.  Depending on how quick the individual grows, the need for lengthening will vary.


Hydrocephalus is treatable.  Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns, they will refer you, if necessary, to a neurosurgeon for further assessment and treatment.

Below, is some helpful information on Hydrocephalus.


*Please note, this article is not intended for diagnosis, please consult your doctor if you have any comments, questions and/or concerns regarding yourself or an individual.  This article is meant for information purposes only.


Some of the information above and more can also be found at the following links.


Hydrocephalus Foundation Inc. – http://www.hydrocephalus.org/

910 Rear Broadway, Rt. 1

Saugus, MA 01906
Phone: 781-942-1161


Hydrocephalus Associationhttp://www.hydroassoc.org/

870 Market Street, Suite 705

San Francisco, CA 94102

Telephone: (415) 732-7040 / (888) 598-3789

Fax: (415) 732-7044


Medline Plushttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hydrocephalus.html


Written by Renée MacLachlan: November/08



**Please note: that this is just to serve as an information resource, this is not to be used for diagnosis.  If you have any medical concerns or questions, please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Augmentative Communication

*Did you know….

  • that 1 in 10 Canadians has a speech, language or hearing problem
  • an estimated 4% of the preschool population has a significant speech or language disorder
  • 8% to 12% of school children have some form of speech or language impairment
  • communication disorders in school-aged children are often misdiagnosed as learning disabilities or behavioural problems, and can be very difficult to treat in later years.  Children with behavioural problems are ten times more likely than other children to have language disorders
  • a child should use 200 or more words by the time they are 2-3 years old and by the age of 4 1/2 their vocabulary should consist of approximately 2000 words
  • speech and language disorders are strongly related to failure in reading and writing
  • drop our rates in students with communication disorders is 43% compared to 23% in non-impaired students

    *The Ontario Association for Families of Children with Communication Disorders: http://www.oafccd.com/


What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and who uses it?


Augmentative, sometimes referred to as alternative communication (AAC) is a method of communication used by individuals with severe speech and language disabilities, those who have cerebral palsy, autism, ALS, suffered from a stroke, etc.

Some people have complex communication needs associated with a wide range of physical, sensory and environmental causes which restrict/limit their ability to participate independently in society. They and their communication partners may benefit from using AAC methods.

Having a severe speech problem affects many aspects of a person’s life. It may affect one’s ability to live in the community, direct one’s care, find employment, discuss sexual matters and report or prevent abuse

AAC is for those individuals who are unable to use verbal speech yet are cognitively able or when speech is extremely difficult to understand. These individuals will use gestures, communications boards, pictures, symbols, drawings or a combination of all of these. An individual would point to a single meaning picture – for instance if the individual was hungry, the picture may look like somebody eating. If the individual is also physically impaired, a head pointer may be worn to indicate the picture, which would relay the feeling.

The methods of AAC will vary and be personalized to meet the needs of the individual. Many forms of AAC will have an Assistive technology component, which will come in both high-tech and low-tech strategies. You don’t need special skills for understanding an individual who is using ACC, as the processes are self-explanatory.

AAC refers to ways other than speech that are used to communicate. Most people who use AAC have a variety of communication systems. Depending on their needs and skills they usually include a number of aided and unaided communication systems.

Unaided AAC systems might include:
Voice; nodding and shaking one’s head; facial expression; pointing or looking at desired objects; gestures; sign languages.

Aided AAC systems might include:
Communication displays (comprised of written words, letters or phrases, pictures or symbols); devices which speak or print out messages; call bells etc.

There are specialized AAC Services available to assist people in determining the AAC systems which best meet their needs and skills.

Here is a list of centres in Ontario for Augmentative Communication, http://www.accpc.ca/aboutaac-ontarioservices.htm


This information is for just that, information purposes only.   If you have questions and want more information, consult your Speech and Augmentative Communication Therapists.

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder

An estimated 2 to 3% of Canadians suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that seems to be related to the amount of sunlight that you are exposed to.

Weather often affects people’s moods.  Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy.  While noticeable, these shifts in mood generally do not affect our ability to cope with daily life.  Some people, however, are vulnerable to a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. For them, the shortening days of late autumn are the beginning of a type of clinical depression that can last until spring.  This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” or SAD.

A mild form of SAD, often referred to as the “winter blues,” causes discomfort, but is not incapacitating. However, the term “winter blues” can be misleading; some people have a rarer form of SAD which is summer depression.  This condition usually begins in late spring or early summer.

Awareness of this mental condition has existed for more than 150 years, but it was only recognised as a disorder in the early 1980s.  Many people with SAD may not be aware that it exists or that help is available.

SAD can be a debilitating condition, preventing sufferers from functioning normally.  It may affect their personal and professional lives, and seriously limit their potential.  It is important to learn about the symptoms, and to know that there is treatment to help people with SAD live a productive life year-round.

What Causes SAD?

Research into the causes of SAD is ongoing.  As yet, there is no confirmed cause.  However, SAD is thought to be related to seasonal variations in light.   A “biological internal clock” in the brain regulates our circadian (daily) rhythms.  This biological clock responds to changes in season, partly because of the differences in the length of the day.  For many thousands of years, the cycle of human life revolved around the daily cycle of light and dark.  We were alert when the sun shone; we slept when our world was in darkness.  The relatively recent introduction of electricity has relieved us of the need to be active mostly in the daylight hours.  But our biological clocks may still be telling our bodies to sleep as the days shorten.  This puts us out of step with our daily schedules, which no longer change according to the seasons.  Other research shows that, neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that help regulate sleep, mood, and appetite, may be disturbed in SAD.

What are the Symptoms?

SAD can be difficult to diagnose, since many of the symptoms are similar to those of other types of depression or bipolar disorder.  Even physical conditions, such as thyroid problems, can look like depression.  Generally, symptoms that recur for at least 2 consecutive winters, without any other explanation for the changes in mood and behaviour, indicate the presence of SAD. They may include:

  • change in appetite, in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • weight gain
  • decreased energy
  • fatigue
  • tendency to oversleep
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • avoidance of social situations
  • feelings of anxiety and despair

The symptoms of SAD generally disappear when spring arrives. For some people, this happens suddenly with a short time of heightened activity.  For others, the effects of SAD gradually dissipate.

Symptoms of summer depression may include:

  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • trouble sleeping


Who is at Risk?

Research in Ontario suggests that between 2% and 3% of the general population may have SAD.  Another 15% have a less severe experience described as the “winter blues.”

SAD may affect some children and teenagers, but it tends to begin in people over the age of 20.  The risk of SAD decreases with age.  The condition is more common in women than in men.

Recent studies suggest that SAD is more common in northern countries, where the winter day is shorter. Deprivation from natural sources of light is also of particular concern for shift workers and urban dwellers who may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments.

People with SAD find that spending time in a southerly location brings them relief from their symptoms.

How is SAD Treated?

If you feel depressed for long periods during autumn and winter, if your sleep and appetite patterns change dramatically and you find yourself thinking about suicide, you should seek professional help, for example, from your family doctor.  There is effective treatment for SAD. Even people with severe symptoms can get rapid relief once they begin treatment.

People with mild symptoms can benefit from spending more time outdoors during the day and by arranging their environments so that they receive maximum sunlight.  Trim tree branches that block light, for example, and keep curtains open during the day.  Move furniture so that you sit near a window.  Installing skylights and adding lamps can also help.

Exercise relieves stress, builds energy and increases your mental and physical well-being.  Build physical activity into your lifestyle before SAD symptoms take hold.  If you exercise indoors, position yourself near a window.  Make a habit of taking a daily noon-hour walk. The activity and increased exposure to natural light can raise your spirits.

A winter vacation in a sunny destination can also temporarily relieve SAD symptoms, although symptoms usually recur after return home. At home, work at resisting the carbohydrate and sleep cravings that come with SAD.

Many people with SAD respond well to exposure to bright, artificial light. “Light therapy,” involves sitting beside a special fluorescent light box for several minutes day.  A health care professional should be consulted before beginning light therapy.

For people who are more severely affected by SAD, antidepressant medications are safe and effective in relieving symptoms.  Counselling and therapy, especially short-term treatments such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, may also be helpful for winter depression.

Increasing your exposure to light, monitoring your diet, sleep patterns and exercise levels are important first steps.  For those who are severely affected, devising a treatment plan with a health care professional consisting of light therapy, medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy may also be needed.

Where to Go For More Information

For further information about seasonal affective disorder, contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to find out about support and resources in your community.

Canadian Mental Health Association Disclaimer:

This site provides general information only and may or may not reflect the position of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).  Information provided is not a substitute for professional advice.  If you feel that you may need medical advice, please consult a qualified health care professional.  CMHA makes every reasonable effort to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of posting.  We cannot guarantee the reliability of any information posted.



This article is taken from the Canadian Mental Health website.  After researching much information about this topic, many had very similar information.  I felt this one would best suit our purposes.

Renee MacLachlan – Jan. 2010


A good question don’t you think?  A question I’m sure, no…I KNOW,  many of us ask ourselves from time to time.

Is it time for this…

Is it time for that…

Do you think it’s time we…

If only we had time…

There never seems to be enough time…

So many questions about time.  What is it TIME for you to do this year?

Going back to the focus aspect as mentioned in a previous blog post a couple days ago, many people really think this year…It’s Time!! for them.

For myself, life has been and is busy.  It tends to be more about others than myself much of the TIME, something I am working on this year as well.  I know I need to make more TIME to do things for me, we all do, and many of us have a hard TIME finding that TIME to do so.

Is it our age that seems to kick in the TIME issue?  Are you finding as you get older, there seems to be less TIME to do some of the things you wanted and/or had hoped to do?

I have started making more TIME to do the things that I really want and need to do.  Life will always be busy, so if you’re waiting for something to happen or to change so that things will perhaps slow down so you CAN do some of those things…think again!

It’s all about YOU!  Only YOU can make an effort and make that time.

I am truly hoping and believing this is going to be my year!  It’s TIME!

I am officially registered for the first of a few courses I want to take.  Courses that will benefit me and what I am striving to do business-wise.  My Community Advocacy Techniques course starts next week!! :)    Human Rights in Ontario begins in April. :)  I’m excited!

All it takes is TIME and it is indeed TIME!  :)

If you are having problems with finding TIME for you, start with something small like 15min a day to stop and do something you like, something for YOU.  Just 15min for the first week, and then gradually increase in small increments, whether they be 5 or 10min increments.

It will take a little TIME to start seeing the benefits, but you will!  :)

If time management is an issue for you, there are many sites with alot of information on different TIME Management Techniques and I’m sure you’ll be able to find one that fits/suits you.  :)

So, as I’ve been doing for the past few days…I’ve also been making TIME to be more regular with posting here on my blog, I’m feeling good about it!  :)

And now, it’s TIME for me to carry on with my evening. :)

Have a wonderful night my friends!

Accomodating students with disabilities

For many parents of special needs children, the school year can seem intimidating  at times.  Whether it be the child’s first time starting school, their first day of school and/or even their transition and entrance into highschool.

Some parents wonder what exactly goes on with their child(ren) at school.  Are all the services and criteria being met for my child to get the best education?  How involved should I be?  Can I be?

Communication between yourselves and those involved with your child at school is important and key!  You are the best advocate for your child(ren).  The school staff and yourself should work together on the plan that best fits and meets the requirements for your child.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If you are unsure of some of the language/terms they use pertaining to your child, step up and ask for an explanation, they will be happy to explain and walk you through it.

Some terms you may hear:

SEAC – Special Education Advisory Committee

  • makes recommendations to the board with respect to any matter affecting the establishment, development, and delivery of special education programs and services for exceptional pupils of the board;
  • participates in the board’s annual review of its special education plan;
  • participates in the board’s annual budget process as it relates to special education;
  • reviews the financial statements of the board as they relate to special education;
  • provides information to parents, as requested.

IPRC – Identification, Placement Review Committee

  • The IPRC will decide whether the student is an exceptional pupil and, if so, what type of educational placement is appropriate.
  • The parent(s)/guardian(s), as well as a student who is sixteen years of age or older, have the right to attend the IPRC meeting and may request that the IPRC discuss potential programs that would meet the student’s needs.

For more information on IPRC check here.

IEP – Individual Education Plan

  • An IEP identifies the student’s specific learning expectations and outlines how the school will address these expectations through appropriate accommodations, program modifications and/or alternative programs as well as specific instructional and assessment strategies.
  • The learning program provided for the student is modified on the basis of the results obtained through continuous assessment and evaluation.

For more information on the IEP, check here.


Unfortunately some of the frustration is going to come in the form of the barriers and stigmas that still tend to be attached to persons with disabilities.  We, as advocates for our children, must make sure these barriers and stigmas continue to be broken down, by using our voices, the resources available to us and the help and support of those who work with our child(ren).

Here is more information and details on the main barriers to education for students with disabilities.

The Ontario Human Rights Code guarantees the right to equal treatment in education, without discrimination on the ground of disability, as part of the protection for equal treatment in services. Education providers have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. Students with disabilities are not always being provided with appropriate accommodation, and, in some cases, are falling victim to disputes between the various parties responsible for accommodation. The accommodation process is a shared responsibility. Each party has a duty to co-operatively engage in the process, share information, and canvass potential accommodation solutions. In this regard each party has a specific role to play:

Click here to read what each role is.

Respect for dignity, individualized accomodation and inclusion & full participation are the principles involved with accomodating, once a need has been identified.  Accommodation is a means of preventing and removing barriers that impede students with disabilities from participating fully in the educational environment.

For more information on these principle, click here.

Just a few resources to help you begin to understand, and to help you along this important journey of education for our children.  I hope these are helpful and informative for you.

More resources and information coming soon.

Have a great evening! :)