It is essential to understand the development of the nervous system and its different stages in order to understand the deficits that can arise from abnormal brain development or be caused by damage at an early age. Depending upon the time when these abnormalities or damage occur (during pregnancy, the perinatal period, or infancy/childhood), the impact will vary.
Some of the disorders included in this classification can be completely resolved by appropriate intervention. Others are chronic, but an adequate intervention is nevertheless essential because it is possible to alleviate to a greater or lesser extent, and in some cases possibly eliminate, the negative consequences or symptoms caused by the disorder in question.
* Intellectual disability meets all the criteria to be included in this category, but we feel it merits a separate section.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
It is characterized by the presenting symptoms of inattention and /or impulsivity-hyperactivity. Subtypes appear based on whether the predominant symptom is attention deficit, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or both equally.
The principal manifestations of each of these areas are:
- Lack of attention to detail and committing careless mistakes.
- Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or at play.
- Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
- Neither follows instructions nor completes tasks.
- Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
- Avoids, to the furthest extent possible, tasks that require sustained mental effort.
- Is careless in daily activities.
- Cannot sit still or fidgets with hands and feet.
- Gets up in situations in which he or she should remain seated.
- Excessive energy.
- Runs around or climbs excessively in inappropriate situations (in adults, feelings of restlessness).
- Difficulty playing quietly or calmly engaging in leisure activities.
- Talks excessively.
- Begins to answer a question before hearing the end of it.
- Has difficulty waiting for his/her turn.
- Interrupts or meddle in other’s activities.
Specific Learning Disorders
Cognitive skills are not homogeneous in the same person, but if after proper development a particularly deficient area exists, we are speaking about a specific problem in learning characterized by substantially lower than expected academic performance in relation to a person’s chronological age, the measure of his/her intelligence and age-appropriate education. It interferes significantly with school performance, hindering adequate progress and the achievement of goals set out in various curricula.
Reading disorder (dyslexia)
It is characterized by an impaired ability to recognize words, slow and insecure reading, and poor comprehension.
Writing disorder (dysgraphia)
The problem may be in writing specific words or in writing in general.
Calculation disorder (dyscalculia)
Basic arithmetic skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) are affected more than more abstract mathematical skills (algebra or geometry).
This type of disorder appears when language development does not follow the expected pattern or significant deficits occur in any of its aspects. The linguistic characteristics of each disorder vary depending on its severity and the age of the child.
The ability for oral expression is substantially below the appropriate level for a child’s mental age. Difficulties may occur in verbal as well as body language.
Its main characteristics are: quantitatively limited speech, limited vocabulary, difficulty acquiring new words, vocabulary errors or errors recalling words, excessively short sentences, simplified grammar, limited use of grammatical structures and types of sentences, omissions of critical parts of sentences, using an unusual word order and deceleration in language development.
The ability for comprehension is markedly below the appropriate level for a child’s mental age. Expression is also significantly affected (this condition is commonly called “mixed receptive-expressive language disorder”) because the development of expressive language is derived from the acquisition of receptive skills.
Apart from the characteristics of expression disorder mentioned above, in this disorder difficulty is seen in understanding words, phrases, or specific types of words. There can also be a deficit in different areas of auditory processing (sound discrimination, sound-symbol association, retention, recall and sequencing).
Speech disorder (dyslalia)
Its main characteristic is the inability to use the sounds of speech that are developmentally appropriate given a child’s age and language.
It may involve errors in the production, use, representation or organization of sounds, such as substitution of one sound for another or omission of sounds.
It is the disruption of normal fluency and temporal structure of speech given a patient’s age.
It is characterized by frequent repetitions or prolongations of sounds or syllables. There may also be interjections, word fragmentation, blockage (audible or silent), circumlocutions, words produced with an excess of physical tension and repetition of monosyllables.
It does not usually occur during oral reading, singing or talking to inanimate objects or animals.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
They are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause serious, and even chronic, socialization, communication and behavioral problems.The way in which these changes are manifested varies greatly from one child to another, hence referring to a “spectrum” or “continuum of disorders,” meaning that there are different ways in which the symptoms of this type of disorder appear and the severity of symptoms varies from case to case. The clinical profile is neither uniform nor absolutely demarcated; it oscillates ranging from high to low affect, varies with time, and is influenced by factors such as the degree of associated intellectual ability or access to specialized support.
People with ASD process information in their brain differently than others and they develop at different rates in each area. They present with clinically significant and persistent difficulties in social communication (marked difficulty in nonverbal and verbal communication used in interactions, lack of social reciprocity and difficulty developing and maintaining peer relationships appropriate to their developmental level), stereotypical motor or verbal behavior, unusual sensory behavior, and excessive adherence to routines and ritualistic patterns of behavior and limited interests.
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