What are Developmental Disorders?

Mother-and-child-in-playgroupSomething wasn’t quite right with Mikey. His mom noticed he did not seem as responsive as other babies his age. He didn’t respond to her baby talk and did not seem to make eye contact with her, his dad or grandparents. Mikey was a quiet baby. He seemed to like the sound of his brother’s toy with the annoying click, click, click, and became fixated upon it. He didn’t respond when you called his name; he didn’t seem to remember it. This developmental delay became more pronounced by the time he was into his second year. It was time to visit pediatric behavioral health professionals to see what might be going on. DD or developmental disorders are often classified within the mental health category, but more truly categorizes children who may have difficulties in communication, language and expression, motor skills, and socialization with family and others. Because DD fall along a spectrum, it is impossible to generalize, though many treatments are available, and emerging evidence-based practices offer hope and the possibility for positive outcomes.

Developmental disabilities may occur because of genetic, biological or physiological issues that occur in the developmental process before or during pregnancy. “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder that affects the behavior, attention, and learning of children. If it is unrecognized, these children can face excessive criticism, failure, and disappointment, while their parents struggle with what to do,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics in the healthychildren.org database of resource articles.

In Down syndrome people are born with an extra chromosome. Cerebral palsy affects the individual’s ability to maintain balance, remain upright and/or move. An IQ below 70 along with other issues in functions is called an intellectual disability. Autism and intellectual disability considered to be common developmental disabilities- FXS Fragile X syndrome falls in this category. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) include Asperger’s and pervasive developmental disorder PDD-NOS– or non-specific. The ASD disorders are neurologically based. One preventable set of disorders results from the mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy. This disorder is termed FASD or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Epilepsy is a biological disorder. Frequently, developmental disabilities are accompanied by mental health issues. There is often a high social and emotional toll for misunderstanding social norms, suffering abuse or isolation, as well as greater challenges in education, access to care, and future career/living arrangements.

Here is a list of links on developmental milestones from the Tufts Child and Family web guide:

Here is a list of links on developmental delays from the Tufts Child and Family web guide:

The NIMH (National Institute on Mental Health) article says, ‘Children with ASD also may have trouble understanding another person’s point of view. For example, by school age, most children understand that other people have different information, feelings, and goals than they have. Children with ASD may lack this understanding, leaving them unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.’ And, there are other communication issues in being responsive to others or holding a conversation. Children with ASD might be overly focused on a specific interest or repetitive behavior. The movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman did a wonderful job of portraying how an adult might respond. For the actor, routine was exceedingly important and he would experience outbursts when faced with change.

The National Institute of Mental Health is dedicated to supporting research and programs of research with “the ultimate goal of preventing and curing mental disorders that originate in childhood and adolescence.” The mission of NIMH is transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses.
“Relevant disorders include mood disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, ADHD, conduct disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and Tourette syndrome.” This organization promotes ‘an integrated program of research across basic behavioral/psychological processes, environmental processes, brain development, genetics, developmental psychopathology and therapeutic interventions.’

Children who have experienced trauma and abuse, often suffer developmental delays. Some of those delays could range from potty training to the ability to process complex story problems in a classroom setting, formulate future plans, or interact properly in a social setting in an age-appropriate way. “Up to ten million American children are believed to be exposed to domestic violence annually and 4 percent of American children under the age of fifteen lose a parent to death each year. . . . Roughly one third of children who are abused will have some clear psychological problems as a result. Research continues to show how even seemingly purely ‘physical’ problems like heart disease, obesity and cancer can be more likely to affect traumatized children later in their lives.’ Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Salavitz, authors of the book, The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog report, (p 65) ‘The fact that the brain develops sequentially-and also so rapidly in the first years of life-explains why extremely young children are at such great risk of suffering lasting effects of trauma: their brains are still developing.” Bless the development process!

What are developmental disorders?

More on Autism Spectrum disorder:

Neurobehavioral research

[photo credit: Author Lance Cpl Claudio A Martinez, work of U.S. military DOD in public domain. Image released by USMC August 11, 2009. Deanna Hull mother
of 2 toddlers tickles youngest during play morning, new parent support group, Bldg 656]


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Communications and Social Media @ Sequel-Pomegranate Health Systems
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