Around one in every six children in the US has a developmental disorder. Developmental disorders are often called neurodevelopmental disorders due to them being neurological conditions. They affect how a person retains, acquires, and applies sets of information or specific skills.
Some disorders present as mild. They are easily managed, providing the individual has access to educational support. Other neurodevelopmental disorders can be more serious. Resulting in the need for significant support throughout life.
Neurodevelopmental disorders interfere with cognitive development. They are usually spotted when children reach childhood milestones. They can affect memory, attention, language, problem-solving, social interaction, and perception.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders, how they affect the individual, and what interventions and support can help.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects around 8.5% of children and 2.5% of adults. It is often first discovered when children reach schooling-age. The most common signs of ADHD are hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity. They are often seen as:
- Being easily distracted and having a short attention span
- Forgetfulness and frequently misplacing things
- Unable to remain focussed on tasks that are time-consuming or tedious
- Difficulty in paying attention and following instructions
- Quickly going from one task to the next
- Difficulty organizing
- Difficulty sitting still, especially in quiet and calm environments
- Constant fidgeting and excessive physical movement
- Excessive talking
- Impulsive actions
- Lack of risk awareness
- Interrupting conversations
To help manage a child’s ADHD, it’s important to create structure and routine. Encourage exercise and help to maintain a healthy sleep routine. When it comes to how to manage adult ADHD, it’s paramount to work at developing organization and attention skills. Focus should also be placed on helping the individual find ways to manage stress.
Autism is also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. It’s a complex developmental disorder that usually presents itself during early childhood. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. It can have an impact on communication, self-regulation, relationship, and social skills.
Autism is a ‘spectrum condition’ because it affects individuals differently. Autism is linked to Savantism. This is where the individual demonstrates remarkable abilities in one or more specific skills. But not everyone on the autistic spectrum is a savant. More often, autism presents itself with the following symptoms:
- Learning difficulties or disabilities
- Delays and difficulties with learning to speak
- Poor eye contact
- Difficulty understanding language
- Notable preoccupation (to the point of obsession) with specific topics
- Repetitive movements (stimming)
- Lack of empathy
- Unusual facial expressions and body posturing
- Behavioral disturbances and self-abusive behaviors
- Sleep disturbances
- Lack of empathy
- Difficulties with social engagement
- Difficulties reading social cues
Learning how autism affects the specific individual is key to providing support. Challenging behaviors are usually displayed when the individual becomes overwhelmed. It’s important to understand the specific triggers and calming methods that work for the individual.
Asperger’s syndrome is considered part of the autism spectrum, but there is one key difference. Individuals with Asperger’s tend to be high functioning. The syndrome only really affects the individual’s social skills. They have trouble reading social cues and making and maintaining eye contact. People with Asperger’s will often take things very literally.
Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are likely to follow a strict routine and may not display emotions. Support for individuals with Asperger’s is similar to support for those with ASD. The focus is on helping the individual develop communication and social skills.
There are about 764,000 children and adults with cerebral palsy in the United States alone. Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for several conditions that affect coordination and movement. The symptoms of which usually become noticeable around the second and third year of a child’s life.
Some of the symptoms include:
- Delays in reaching developmental childhood milestones
- Weak limbs
- Jerking, clumsy, fidgety, uncontrolled, or random movements
- Uncontrolled and random movements
- Weak arms or legs
- Walking on tiptoes
- Other symptoms include speaking problems, swallowing difficulties, learning disabilities, and problems with vision.
Cerebral palsy affects individuals differently. The severity of the symptoms can vary dramatically. Some people living with cerebral palsy only have minor issues. Others can be severely disabled.
Down syndrome affects around 1 in every 700 babies born in the US each year. Normally, we are born with 46 chromosomes. Children with Down syndrome are born with a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This extra copy of the chromosome affects how the baby’s body and the brain develop.
Down syndrome increases the chances of several health complications, including:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Hearing loss
- Ear infections
- Eye diseases
- Heart defects that are present at birth
Down syndrome is also associated with cognitive impairment. Individuals with Down syndrome often have problems with thinking and learning. Other symptoms include:
- Delayed speech and language development
- Short attention span
- Impulsive behavior
The symptoms are rarely severe, and many people with Down Syndrome go on to pursue higher education.
Around 4% of the child population of the US has a moderate or severe learning disorder. Learning disorders don’t directly affect an individual’s intelligence or motivation. Instead, they affect how the brain receives and processes information.
Learning disorders will often affect a child’s abilities in:
- Written expression
- Fine and gross motor skills
- Nonverbal skills
Learning disorders affect how an individual learns new skills and uses them effectively. There is a gap between what you would expect from the child based on their age and intelligence and their actual academic performance.
Learn More About Neurodevelopmental Disorders
When it comes to interacting with people with neurodevelopmental disorders, the best thing to do is educate yourself. Firstly, about the individual and secondly about their disorder. Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, affect individuals differently.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Reading the literature will help you to better understand the disorder. But nothing will be as effective in supporting someone with a neurodevelopmental disorder as getting to know them. If you enjoyed this article, then be sure to check out more of our interesting posts.