Students Build Bus Stop for Boy with Spina Bifida

Ryder Killam, a 5-year-old kindergarten student in Westerley, Rhode Island, was born with myelomeningocele, the most severe form of spina bifida. Ryder must use a wheelchair, which made it difficult for him to wait for the school bus, especially in harsh weather. When a shop class at the local high school heard about his need, they custom-built a bus stop shelter as a senior project.

Ryder now sits cozily in his own safe and warm space, which was built to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and even has a window so he can see the oncoming school bus. His dad, Tim Killam, said Ryder loves the shelter so much that “it’s become his fort, his hangout.” When the students delivered the shelter in December 2021, it was soon cheerfully decorated for the Christmas holidays.

Ryder’s mother, Nikea Killam, said, “It’s given him more independence. He now wants to go down the ramp and the sidewalk all by himself.”

What Is Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida is a disorder that affects the developing spine of an unborn child. It can occur anywhere along the spine when the spinal cord does not close properly. This happens within the first few weeks of pregnancy, and it can cause mild to severe physical and intellectual disabilities, depending on the location and size of the defect and how the spine and nerves are impacted.

What Are The Types of Spina Bifida? 

No case of spina bifida is the same, but there are three basic types of spina bifida.

  • Myelomeningocele, in which a fluid sac, containing the damaged spinal cord and nerves, comes through an opening in the baby’s back. This can cause moderate to severe disabilities.
  • Meningocele, in which a fluid sac, with no spinal cord in it, comes through an opening in the baby’s back, with little or no nerve damage. This can cause minor disabilities.
  • Spina bifida occulta, in which the small gap in the spine is barely noticeable. This is the mildest form and rarely causes disabilities.

Because it’s possible to diagnose spina bifida during pregnancy, it’s important to get regular checkups with your doctor. When spina bifida is diagnosed after birth, this might be because the mother did not have prenatal care or the affected spine did not show up on an ultrasound.

What Causes Spina Bifida?

According to the CDC, not all the causes are known, but there are ways to reduce the risk, such as taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy. The CDC also recommends discussing with your doctor the medications and supplements you are taking, avoiding overheating your body in hot tubs or saunas, and treating fever quickly. Some chemical exposure has also been linked to spina bifida.

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