What is it?
Cri-du-chat, also known as cat’s cry or 5p-, is a chromosomal condition that results when a part of chromosome 5 is missing. It is called cat’s cry because infants often will have a high-pitched cry that sounds similar to that of a cat. Characteristics of this disorder are intellectual disability, delayed development, small head, low birth weight, weak muscle tone, and distinctive facial features (widely set eyes, low set ears, a small jaw, rounded face). Due to their small size, some of these children may have a heart defect.
These students may have difficulties sitting, standing or walking. They most likely work with a therapist to help them but teaching staff should be patient with them and help them find a comfortable way to learn. Some with Cri-du-chat may be in a wheel chair, so ensure they have proper room to navigate the classroom and hallways. Ensure they have a desk that they can use. The wheelchair will fit under the desk, so it may need to be raised slightly to accommodate the chair.
Speech difficulties are common in students with Chi-du-chat. It is important to make sure you support their communications by paying attention and listening carefully. If you don’t understand, ask them to repeat what they said. There are some other ways to communicate with these students such as using sign language or a picture exchange system. This supports communications because the student can point to pictures of things needed or wanted.
Lack of control of the mouth and lips may cause the student to drool. Have clean paper towels, napkins or cloths available and always wash your hands to avoid spread of germs. Helping students at meal times is extremely important due to their difficulty swallowing. Their food should be cut into small pieces. Ensure they do not choke. Learn what is required to ensure the student get the right nutrients. If she can’t chew food, she may need a high caloric drink. It is vitally important that they do not choke. Blocked airways stop breathing.
Some students may have difficulty hearing and seeing. So it is important to be in front of them when you are talking so they not only can see who you are but also so that they can hear what you are saying. If they still can’t hear it may be appropriate to talk closer to their ear. Do not raise your voice. Talk so that your voice is in a normal pitch and clear.
You may not be familiar with this syndrome, so the most important thing to do is to learn this specific child’s needs from teachers and parents. Then work to make the student safe, comfortable, happy, and to assure their learning.