What is a teratogen? According to Pressley and McCormick (2007) teratogens are “environmental agents that can interfere greatly with normal development by affecting the beginning of the nervous system” (p. 48). Why is this information important, especially as it pertains to the development of a child physically and academically? Research has shown the importance of neurological development in the first 2-3 months of life, which is a time of neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is when new nerve cells are forming and teratogens are agents which can cause adverse effects of normal development (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007). The most common teratogens being drugs and medications, some examples are: alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, cannabis, prescriptive drugs, and non-prescriptive drugs. This reflection will only focus on the adverse effects of tobacco on normal development.
Interesting to note that the effect of smoking tobacco during pregnancy was first realized in 1935 but the effects on prenatal development was not recognized until the 1950’s (Payne, & Isaacs, 2005). The effects had become so widely known that in 1964 the General’s Report led to warning labels on cigarette packets (Payne, & Isaacs, 2005). Maternal smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight and expressive language difficulties (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007). Additionally smoking tobacco can cause an increase rate of mortality at or around the time of birth, increased miscarriages, decreased mental functioning, and increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (Payne, & Isaacs, 2005). There are also some postnatal effects for households where smoking is prevalent. This caused more episodes of respiratory disease such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia (Payne, & Isaacs, 2005). The effects do not just end with physical complications, where maternal smoking has shown to cause behavioral effects. Research has shown behavioral changes of reduced mental alertness, reduced visual alertness, and mothers are less likely to breast-feed (Payne, & Isaacs, 2005). All aspects interfere with learning as they grow because of smoking’s disruptions on biological development.
Implications which can be taken away from this as it pertains to classroom strategies and supporting the students learning with such a disability can be difficult. Typically, when a student has some sort of learning disability they will be on some sort of individualized educational plan (IEP). If there is a student with such issues in my classroom, it would be vital to be aware of his/her IEP and to be in contact and communication with the student’s case manager. Simple communications and collaboration with parents and the student’s case manager will help me to become better equipped with methods or strategies to use in providing an ideal learning environment. Additionally, I would be able to further realize areas where the student may be struggling or excelling – to accommodate struggles and to utilize strength. Since maternal smoking causes decreased mental functioning – an example would be a student who may be developmentally delayed in his/her reading comprehension. Research shows that learning predictions, questionings, clarifications, and summarization strategies results in improved comprehension (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007). Overall, I feel the most important aspect in order for any teacher to support a student with a learning ability is to be educated themselves. Understanding the cause and effects the disability has upon learning and to utilize all the resources one has around. A simple solution may be a student just needs more time to finish his homework, tests, and/or projects. Accommodating so the student simply has the opportunity to complete his/her work without time restrictions can go a long ways. Simple changes in how the information is given or portrayed will help students with disabilities to learn and comprehend information.
Again there is no easy solution for supporting students with learning disabilities. Disabilities come in a variety of shapes and sizes effecting different areas of learning development. The most important thing to remember is to keep the students best interest in mind through provide optimal support for his/her learning. Never being afraid to seek the help and support from others.
Payne, V.G., & Isaacs, L.D. (2005). Human motor development: a lifespan approach. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Pressley, N., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guildford Press.