A person with hydrocephalus can have some or all of the following difficulties, however, the degree to which the hydrocephalus affects any individual varies greatly from minimal to quite severe, and often varies from day to day.

Sometimes children with hydrocephalus can be seen as 'naughty' or 'disruptive', but often at least some of the difficulties they have can be due to their underlying learning difficulties, or to the cause of the hydrocephalus.

Each child will also have 'good' and 'bad' days, like other children.

Effects can include:

  • Fine motor skills
    • May have impaired dexterity affecting drawing and sports.
    • Handwriting can often be untidy
  • Spatial awareness
    • Poor eye hand co ordination, poor sense of direction, unsure balance.
  • Short term memory impairment
    • Difficulty following detailed sequence of instructions
    • Difficulties learning new information
    • Forgetting things they have learned
    • Difficulties with comprehension
  • Social
    • Talking a lot and repetitive speech
    • Difficultly making and keeping friends
    • Content of conversation is superficial but well articulated
    • Use social jargon and words without fully understanding their meaning
    • Over-familiar manner
    • Inappropriate introduction of personal experience during conversation
  • Short attention span
    • May experience difficulty keeping to task.
    • They may not complete tasks, daydream and have difficulty following things when there is lots going on.
  • Diminished motivation/initiation
    • May sit and wait for instructions. Often this is misinterpreted as laziness.
  • Executive functions
    • Not thinking before acting, poor planning and organisation
  • Inability to generalise
    • Difficulty transferring concepts from one situation to a different one, especially in mathematics.
    • Difficulty transferring problem solving experiences from one situation to another.
  • Altered concept of time
    • No inclination to hurry.

Altered thinking skills become more evident for children living with hydrocephalus when they enter high school. They are expected to become more independent in their learning, and manage changing routines and be flexible.

Hydrocephalus is a condition in which the primary characteristic is excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain. Although hydrocephalus was once known as "water on the brain," the "water" is actually cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) -- a clear fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The excessive accumulation of CSF results in an abnormal dilation of the spaces in the brain called ventricles. This dilation causes potentially harmful pressure on the tissues of the brain.

Hydrocephalus is the buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Normally, this fluid cushions the brain. When there is too much, though, it puts harmful pressure on the brain that tends to become enlarged, sometimes with little or no increase in intracranial pressure (ICP).

 For more information please download our Hydrocephalus factsheet

As an international organisation promoting the exchange and transfer of knowledge, IF recognises and stresses the importance of research and data collection. Research on the incidence is necessary to establish adequate primary prevention systems. Research on the medical and/or rehabilitative care of the conditions can contribute to a better and more cost effective care. Some of the IF projects are already developing research programmes or contributing to the collection of data for future benefit to people with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. List of major IF contributions to research projects:


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