What are the Different Childhood Developmental Disorders?

Debra Durkee
Debra Durkee
Many children and adolescents who have Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent and verbal.
Many children and adolescents who have Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent and verbal.

There are a wide variety of childhood developmental disorders that can impact almost every area of a child's life. Conditions that fall into these categories are called developmental disorders because although many exist from birth, they are usually noticed and diagnosed around the time a child reaches three years of age and begins a critical stage in his development into adulthood. There is rarely a typical case in children with developmental disorders, as there are varying degrees of severity and symptoms exhibited with each diagnosis.

Pervasive development disorders (PDDs) are characterized by delays in a child's ability to socialize, use his imagination, rationalize the world around him, and communicate with others. Perhaps the best-known of the PDDs is autism, which affects a child's social skills, communication, and ability to develop interest in many things. Closely related to autism is Asperger's syndrome, where children have the same difficulty with social situations but also have normal or above average intelligence. Pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS) can be diagnosed when children show some signs of difficulties with communication but are more socially aware than those suffering from autism.

Other PDDs are rare, such as Rett's syndrome. In this condition, sufferers often show many of the social problems demonstrated in autism as well as loss of basic physical skills such as walking. Childhood disintegrative disorder occurs when a child begins to develop normally, but suddenly loses control of skills he had previously mastered. This includes social and communication skills, as well as basic physical functions.

Unlike disorders where the child turns inward, there are childhood developmental disorders where the individual displays inappropriate behavior toward others. Conduct disorder can be diagnosed in an aggressive child who bullies others and has caused physical harm to people or animals. Attention Deficit Disorder is characterized not only by difficulty paying attention in social situations, but also by an inability to sit still, impulsive interruptions, and constant talking. When a child displays a pattern of hostile or negative behavior and repeatedly displays anger toward authority, he can be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Some childhood developmental disorders refer to a specific ability within the scope of a child's development. Disorder of Written Expression can be diagnosed when a child performs consistently below standards on written exams, while Expressive Language Disorder, Mathematics Disorder, and Reading Disorder are defined by difficulties with language, math, and reading, respectively. Stuttering is also considered a childhood development disorder.

Not all childhood developmental disorders are well known. Pica is the practice of eating substances and items outside the normal limits for a child's age, while the regurgitation and rechewing of food is called Rumination Disorder. When a child displays behaviors of consistently putting feces in inappropriate places, this is called Encopresis; Enuresis is characterized by voluntary or involuntary urination.

Childhood developmental disorders should be diagnosed by a health professional. Since there are no textbook cases, they can exist with different levels of severity. Based on the child's unique situation and diagnosis, treatments and therapy can often be prescibed to help the child maximize his potential. These therapies are often not only geared to help the child but to also help the family.

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    • Many children and adolescents who have Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent and verbal.
      Many children and adolescents who have Asperger's syndrome are highly intelligent and verbal.