Cognitive problems 4 Children

Cognitive Problems In Children And Adolescents With ME Cognitive problems such as with short-term memory, difficulty to explain and concentration issues are components of Me symptoms. Many patients experience these as serious hindrances. In this video, posted by the Norwegian ME Association, pediatrician and neurologist Kristian Sommerfelt is speaking at the Haukeland hospital in the Norwegian city of Bergen about how this problem occurs in children and young adults with ME, and how one should cope with these limitations. He doesn’t speak on behalf of the Haukeland hospital, but instead speaks from his own thoughts, considerations and experiences with children who suffer from ME. A refreshing take by a physician on an important, consequential issue for a change. Sommerfelt primarily works with children under the age of 18. The problem is, that during a consultation period, cognitive impairment in children is usually visible after 45 minutes. Rigid focus from him is required here, otherwise it’ll remain completely unnoticed. First, he notices how the patient loses his calm, and incorrectly answers his questions, if answering at all. This gradually deteriorates, and if the patient is accompanied by e.g. one or two friends, he notices how the patient shows increasing difficulty in interacting. He’s also quite ashamed of it. According to him, exhaustion due to physical activity is not the worst problem for patients- if it were, they’d still be able to live a better life in terms of quality. Losing your ability to think by thinking is far worse. Sommerfelt has tried to feel what’s known as ‘brainfog’. This exists in different stages, but it’s as if the brain is unable to finish what it started, even though it is imperative not only to communication, but also to performing regular tasks. Brainfog appears to be worse during the morning and deteriorates upon activity, even after an hour or a day - PEM. It becomes flat-out impossible to ‘use’ one’s brain normally. For comparison, imagine reading complex texts for five to ten hours straight, and then being forced to continue reading for another five to ten hours. Is there a connection between these cognitive problems and other symptoms? Cognitive problems occur at an increased rate when the patient is surrounded by stimuli, e.g. a shopping mall, even if they walk around calmly. Brainfog occurs as a result of the brain becoming burdened with wanting to respond to these stimuli. Having to find and choose a product in a supermarket, for example, is an attack on the brain of a patient. What is the best way for doctors to deal with this? Doctors could adapt by asking and speaking more efficiently, seeing as the patient won’t know if a question or something important will follow after a sentence. The patient only has a limited amount of ‘fuel’ for the conversation. If you let them know you’ve noticed that they are running out of ‘fuel’, you’ll make the patient feel acknowledged. Nausea, pain, dizziness, shivering and flu symptoms also kick in when the brain is overburdened; this does not happen only after physical activity. Especially if it lasts for hours, e.g. a school field trip, which can last for days. How is speech ability affected? In a family environment, this leads to sometimes comical situations due to the word being uttered meaning something completely different. But more frequently occurring than using the wrong words is having to figure them out, which doesn’t seem to be dependent on the level of fatigue, even though a patient struggles to string together a coherent sentence at the end of the day. At this point, you’re better off ceasing communication altogether. Pupils often withdraw from groups or group conversations because they’re feeling drained. How does it influence memory? Sometimes, ME patients don’t remember codes. Fluctuations in memory capability can suddenly occur. Therefore, it makes sense for e.g. family members to sufficiently remind the patient that certain things have to be done, accepting the situation as is. How can ME patients still make the best of their day? For the 8-18-year-old children Sommerfelt works with, it’s profoundly hard. Aside from not being able to live their past lives, they’re still in the teenage stage of self-discovery. This results in them looking for answers in places that wouldn’t make much sense if they were healthy. This may sound as a very simple solution, but pacing is crucial here, and that isn’t easy to accomplish if you’re a member of a group taking part in activities. It’s important to pick and set small goals, and harder ones if they involve opportunities whose fields one isn’t familiar with, such as being a painter instead of a soccer player. The key is to find the pencil with which to connect the dots during this cruel and wrenching illness. From: The latest (122-page) edition of free international newsletter "The ME Global Chronicle", #27, which can be downloaded at

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