The following is a scenario that perplexes many parents:
Their child is able to fully immerse and engage in activities at home yet is unable to focus and perform well at school. The teacher complains that the child is disruptive in class, yet this contrasts sharply with the happy, well behaved child at home.
Or, perhaps he works well at school, but has trouble studying at the library? Can he solve math problems in one location and not another? Why would his handwriting be neat and legible sometimes and completely illegible at other times? These inconsistent performances may indicate that something toxic in the air might be affecting his ability to thrive in a particular environment.
How do airborne chemicals or biologic agents affect a child’s ability to function social and academically outside of the home?
This is a burning question in that unhealthy environments are common, yet often ignored and have a profoundly negative impact on our children. Children with environmental illness are often treated for ADHD and behavioral problems. Does your child need therapy or medication to control his learning problems or behavior? Not necessarily.
Dr. Doris Rapp, an environmental physician and pediatric allergist has done groundbreaking research in this field and developed some simple tools for ferreting out learning problems due to environmental sensitivities. If you suspect that an environment might be problematic perform this simple test: Ask your child to write their name or make a picture while they are in the questionable environment. Than, go to a different place where your child functions well and repeat the test after one hour. Compare the handwriting and art samples – are they similar or strikingly different?
Once you identify which environment is toxic to your child, you need to discover what product or agent is causing the problem. Find out what cleaning products are being used in the building. Cleansers often contain biocides like bronopol and CMI/MI. Carpeting may contain 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC). Carpet adhesives usually contain benzene and touluene. Older carpets may be harboring molds or dust mites. These chemicals and biological agents are often toxic to humans and could be causing your child’s learning problems.
What can you do if an environment is making your child sick?
Once a problem is discovered, the next step is remediation, which is tricky in public spaces because you must work with those in charge and convince them to address the issue. A letter from your doctor stating medical necessity may be helpful in getting your child’s school to cooperate. A high quality HEPA air cleaner with a large carbon filter is also important when addressing learning problems due to environmental illness. Air cleaners are inexpensive to operate and can make a world of difference.