One of the main reasons individuals join LDA is its strong advocacy for the health, safety, and education of children. When LDA learned of the dire situation with the water supply in Flint, Michigan, and the serious effects of high lead levels on children, a workgroup of LDA members sprang into action to support families in that community.
Members of the LDA Public Policy Committee and the Professional Advisory Board (PAB) joined together to compose a letter (click here to see the letter) that has been sent to national news media including the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC), and local and State media outlets in Michigan such as the Detroit Free Press and the Flint Journal. Members in Michigan also reached out to the Michigan Department of Education and are working with the Michigan Healthy Children Project. Maureen Swanson, director of the LDA Healthy Children Project, and PAB chair neuropsychologist Jerry Schultz provided expert information to the workgroup on the effects of high lead levels on children’s growth and development.
The letter makes clear the immediate priority must be testing and treating children for lead poisoning, but notes also these actions are just first steps in addressing a problem of this magnitude. Evidence clearly links high lead levels with increased incidence of learning disabilities and/or neurological impairments. Therefore, a long-term plan must be in place to prevent this type of catastrophe from being repeated elsewhere.
LDA recommends a long-term plan include the following:
- Periodic assessment of all two to four year olds testing positive for lead poisoning for early warning signs of learning disabilities and/or neurological impairments, and if necessary, providing early intervention services at school and at home.
- Comprehensive evaluation of all seven-year-olds testing positive for lead poisoning, including a cognitive assessment to identify specific problem areas.
- Assignment of a special education advocate or parent trainer to work with families of all children testing positive for lead poisoning to ensure appropriate services from the Flint school district.
- Recognition by the State of Michigan that many of the children identified with neurological impairments resulting from lead poisoning will need continued supports into and through adulthood.
LDA understands that Flint is an extreme example of a problem that exists in many cities and towns across the country. A key component of the LDA mission and vision is to reduce the incidence of learning disabilities for future generations. LDA actions to prevent situations like the one in Flint will help make this vision a reality.