Educational interventions for children affected by lead
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    • Description:
      This paper was developed by an expert panel that included CDC and non-CDC authors.

      The information contained in this paper has been prepared and is presented for informational and educational purposes only. The information in this paper is not intended to be legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal determination about eligibility for any program or benefit.

      Lead is a developmental neurotoxicant, and high blood lead levels (HBLLs) in young children can impair intellectual functioning and cause behavioral problems that last a lifetime. Primary prevention of HBLLs remains a national priority and is the only effective way to prevent the neurodevelopmental and behavioral abnormalities associated with lead exposure. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children already have experienced blood lead levels known to impair academic performance. To ensure that such children are provided with the services that may help improve academic and other outcomes, in 2008 the CDC Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention convened a work group charged with describing specific action steps parents, clinicians, educators, lead poisoning prevention programs, and others who work with children may be able to take to ensure that children affected by lead receive timely and appropriate educational interventions. This report was drafted by these experts, who were chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise and reflects their insight, knowledge, and practical expertise.

      The body of evidence cited in this document demonstrates the effects that low-level lead exposure has on the brain’s learning systems: overall intellectual ability, speech and language, hearing, visual-spatial skills, attention, executive functions, social behavior, and fine and gross motor skills. It details the significant negative consequences of lead on learning and educational attainment found in study after study (see Table 1) and the costs associated with those consequences. It describes the challenges children face as they advance through the school system and how lead interferes with development and learning.

      There are no studies that specifically examine the impact of early childhood educational interventions on cognitive or behavioral outcomes for children who have been exposed to lead. However, there are studies of educational interventions improving developmental outcomes for children who have conditions other than lead. This research demonstrates that children with developmental delays or at high risk for developmental delays benefit most from interventions that start at an early age.

      This document reviews current knowledge and practice of the early care and educational systems and describes key ways that these systems can support improved outcomes for lead-exposed children, such as

      1. Streamlined access to developmental assessment, intervention and special education services, and by conducting a neuropsychological assessment of executive function in addition to a developmental assessment to identify cognitive and functional deficits in lead-exposed children with HBLLs.

      2. Consistent interpretation of provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that require provision of assessment and educational interventions, including mechanisms to ensure that children with a history of HBLLs receive the services to which they are entitled.

      3. Technical advice on the implications of the connection between lead exposure and educational results for educators, state and local governments, parents, pediatric health care providers, lead poisoning prevention programs, and others who work with young children.

      Suggested citation: Educational Services for Children Affected by Lead Expert Panel. Educational interventions for children affected by lead. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2015.

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