There are several different developmental problems that children can face, defined as social, mental, or physical delays in development. The most common mental developmental problems are autism spectrum disorders and disintegrative disorders. General learning delays without any physical or genetic cause are also possible. Children may also have developmental problems with vision or hearing.
Autism is an increasingly common developmental problem in children, especially boys. It is characterized by a significant difficulty developing social and communication skills, which can hinder the learning process. There are several different variations of autism, ranging from very mild cases known as Asperger’s to more severe cases that greatly hinder a child’s ability to live independently as he or she reaches adulthood. Children with an autism spectrum disorders are typically treated with intense therapy focusing on improving their social skills and ability to communicate effectively with their developmentally-normal peers and adults. Some children may also require specialized teaching methods in school depending on their unique strengths and challenges.
Disintegrative disorders are characterized by a regression in development rather than a delay. Children with these types of developmental problems often appear to be progressing normally up until a certain age, at which point they begin to lose one or more abilities. This can occur anywhere between two and ten years old, and can include a regression in anything from speech to gross motor skills. Oftentimes, these developmental problems have no known cause, although they can occur following a trauma or physical illness.
Some children have difficulty reaching the same developmental milestones as their peers. These types of developmental problems can be both physical or mental, and typically become noticeable between one and two years of age. Children may have difficulty mastering fine or gross motor skills, such as holding up their head, walking, using their fingers, or learning to talk. For these issues to be considered a developmental delay, doctors typically wait until the child has failed to meet the milestone within several months or a year from the average child, depending on the specific issue. These types of developmental problems can translate into learning or intellectual disabilities as the child reaches school age.
Doctors begin screening young patients for hearing developmental delays a month or two after the child is born. Some children may be born completely deaf or have a hearing impairment due to a defect in the construction of the ear. Early detection of these delays can often help to improve the child’s ability to develop normally outside of this issue.
Children are also routinely tested for vision soon after birth. Developmental problems in the retina or the connections between the eyes and the brain can lead to vision problems in very young children. As with hearing issues, an early diagnoses of a vision problem can often improve a child’s chances of developing normally in other areas.