Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

What is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and how does it affect students.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a form of muscular dystrophy that only affects boys. They lose muscle throughout their lives and often in up wheelchair bound because of tighten of muscles. Approximately 1 out of 3, 500 boys will be born with the disease and all ethnic groups are equally affected.1

DMD has long been recognized as a cause of mental retardation, however; most boys with DMD are not mentally retarded. It has been suggested that all boys with DMD have some form of cognitive impairment. A study was done to ascertain if all children regardless of intellectual level have these cognitive issues.

The Study

Ninety-two boys between the ages of 6 and 16 with DMD were tested on two different levels. First, standardized tests were used to examine their verbal and memory skills and a comparative study between boys with DMD and their unaffected siblings was preformed.

The researchers set out to answer three questions:
1. “Do all testable boys with DMD have some specific cognitive involvement or just a subset affected?
2. Is general intellectual function associated with the specificity of the profile?
3. Is the profile of verbal and memory performance associated with DMD substantially different from a control comparison group?” 2

Of the 92 boys involved in the study, ten of them had test scores of 70 or less which placed them in the category of mentally retarded. An additionally two boys did not complete the second phase of testing because they displayed behavior disorders similar to autism.

The study did find that even though all boys with DMD had some cognitive impairment regardless of their intellectual level; their general cognitive abilities were enough to keep them from having severe learning disabilities. Most students with DMD were able to use their other abilities to make up for their weaknesses.

Students showed abilities consistent with other of their intellectual abilities and grade levels when it comes to answering factual questions or explaining similarities. They also demonstrated general verbal understanding and verbal abstract thinking. The areas where all DMD students seems to consistently have trouble were the digital scan, comprehension, and story memory areas. All of these can be grouped into verbal working memory.

What this means for teachers

Students with DMD can have various levels of intellectual ability. A student with DMD will have some poor working verbal memory. A teacher should provide the students with lots of nonverbal methods to complete work with the students’ strengths. The teacher should always provide written copies of materials such as typed notes of lectures and other materials. Another way to help make students with DMD successful is to provide them with chances to use rote memorization, an area that they do well in.

Students with DMD can be successful in the inclusion classroom. Their teachers must be familiar with all their students learning styles and abilities and realize that students with DMD are comparatively capable of performing at their intellectual level. These students will need the teachers to allow them to work with their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

1.Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2002) Duchenne/Becker muscular dystrophy. Retrieved July, 29. 2007 from Your genes/your health. Website: www.ygyh.org.dmd/whatisit.htm
2. Hinton, V., DeVivo, D., Nereo, N., Goldstein, E., and Stern, Y.(2000) Poor working memory across intellectual levels in boys with Duchenne dystrophy. Neurology. (54) p.2127-2132.
3.Added by Angela Ramsey-Lockhart