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Developmental disorder
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F80-F84
ICD-9 299, 315

Developmental disorders is a group of psychiatric conditions originating in childhood that involve serious impairment in different areas. There are several ways of using this term.[1] The most narrow concept is used in the category "Specific Disorders of Psychological Development" in the ICD-10.[1] These disorders comprise language disorders, learning disorders, motor disorders and autism spectrum disorders.[2] In broader definitions ADHD is included, and the term used is neurodevelopmental disorders.[1] Yet others include antisocial behavior and schizophrenia that begins in childhood and continues through life.[1] However, these two latter conditions are not as stable as the other developmental disorders, and there is not the same evidence of a shared genetic liability.[1]
Developmental disorders are present from early life. They usually improve as the child grows older, but they also entail impairments that continue through adult life. There is a strong genetic component, and more males are afflicted than females.[1]


Learning disabilities are diagnosed when the children are young and just beginning school. Most learning disabilities are found under the age of 9.[3]

Young children with communication disorders may not speak at all, or may have a limited vocabulary for their age.[4] Some children with communication disorders have difficulty understanding simple directions or are unable to name objects.[4] Most children with communication disorders are able to speak by the time they enter school, however, they continue to have problems with communication.[4] School-aged children often have problems understanding and formulating words.[4] Teens may have more difficulty with understanding or expressing abstract ideas.[4]


The scientific study of the causes of developmental disorders involves many different theories. Some of the major differences between these theories involves whether or not environment disrupts normal development, or if abnormalities are pre-determined.[5] Normal development occurs with a combination of contributions from both the environment and genetics. The theories vary in the part each factor has to play in normal development, thus affecting how the abnormalities are caused.[6]

One theory that supports environmental causes of developmental disorders involves stress in early childhood. Researcher and child psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, theorizes that developmental disorders can be caused by early childhood traumatization.[7] In his works he compares developmental disorders in traumatized children to adults with post-traumatic stress disorder, linking extreme environmental stress to the cause of developmental difficulties.[7] Other stress theories suggest that even small stresses can accumulate to result in emotional, behavioral, or social disorders in children.[8]


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)


The first diagnosed case of ASD was in 1938 by American psychiatrist Leo Kanner. There is a wide range of cases and severity to ASD so it is very hard to detect the first signs of ASD. A diagnosis of ASD can be made accurately before the child is 3 years old but the diagnosis of ASD is not commonly confirmed until the child is somewhat older. The ages of diagnosis can range from 9 months to 14 years however the mean age of diagnosis is 13 months. On average each case of ASD is tested at 3 different diagnostic centers before confirmed. Early diagnosis of the disorder can diminish familial stress, speed up referral to special educational programs and influence family planning.[9]

In the brain

The cause of ASD is still uncertain. ASD is a disorder of the cortex, which controls higher functions, sensation, muscle movements, and memory. What is known is that a child with ASD has a pervasive problem with how the brain is wired. The distribution of white matter, the nerve fibers that link diverse parts of the brain, is abnormal. An ASD child’s brain grows at a very rapid rate and is almost fully grown by the age of 10.[9]


Still a lot of information is unclear about ASD and the symptoms have a wide range of severity. Signs include impairments in social interactions, communication and repetitive or restricted patterns of interest or behaviors. There are also different symptoms at different ages based on developmental milestones. For children between 0 and 36 months with ASD show lack of eye contact, seem to be deaf, lack of social smile, doesn’t like being touched or held, unusual sensory behavior, lack of imitation. For children between 12 and 24 months with ASD show lack of gestures, prefer to be alone, lack of pointing to object to indicate interest, easily frustrated with challenges, and lack of functional play. And finally children between the ages 24 to 36 months with ASD show lack of symbolic play and an unusual interest in certain objects, or moving objects.[9]


There is no cure for ASD and proper treatment depends on the case and what is most struggled with. ASD is like many other disorders where when diagnosed early, can be better treated. Different types of therapy are helpful such as music therapy and physical therapy. Other treatments include auditory training, discrete trial training, facilitated communication, and sensory integration.[9]

When started at an early age, occupational therapy can greatly effect a child's development. Occupational therapy can help with various needs, including sensory, cognitive, physical, and motor skills. These skills will enhance self-esteem and ensure a helthierr lifestyle for ADD and ADHD children. Occupational therpay is a wonderful early intervention program that will guide a child through most difficulties that ADD and ADHD propose.


Attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are psychiatric disorders that are marked by significant levels of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsiveness. There are three types of these disorders; inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and a combination (inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive).[10]

Treatment options

The different kinds of medicines that can be taken to treat attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder include central nervous system stimulants, antidepressants, antihypertensives, and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Examples of central nervous system stimulants include Ritalin, Concerta, and Metadate (different forms of methylphenidate), Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine mixed salts) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine sulfate). Examples of the antidepressants, antihypertensives, and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors commonly prescribed are bupropion, clonidine and atomoxetine, respectively.


Symptoms of ADD/ADHD include inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. Many of the behaviors that are associated with ADD/ADHD include poor control over actions resulting in disruptive behavior and academic problems. Another area that is affected by these disorders is the social arena for the person with the disorder. Many children that are afflicted with this disorder exhibit poor interpersonal relationships and struggle to fit in socially with their peers.[10]

Developmental aspect in mental health

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 (2008) Rutter's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Fifth Edition, Dorothy Bishop and Michael Rutter, 32-33, Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
  3. National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. (1982). Learning disabilities: Issues on definition. Asha, 24 (11), 945-947.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Communication Disorders. (n.d.). Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, WI, Retrieved December 6, 2011, from
  5. Karmiloff, Annette. "Development itself is key to understanding developmental disorders". Page 1. Published October 1, 1998. Retrieved on November 26, 2011 from:
  6. Karmiloff, Annette. "Development itself is key to understanding developmental disorders". Page 1. Published October 1, 1998. Retrieved on November 26, 2011 from:
  7. 7.0 7.1 Perry, Bruce D. and Szalavitz, Maia. "The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog", Basic Books, 2006, p.2. ISBN 978-0-465-05653-8
  8. Payne, Kim John. “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids”, Ballantine Books, 2010, p. 9. ISBN 9780345507983
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Dereu, Mieke. (2010). Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Flemish Day-Care Centers with the Checklist for Early Signs of Developmental Disorders. Springer Science+Business Media. 1247-1258.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Tresco, Katy E. (2004). Attention Deficit Disorders: School-Based Interventions. Pennsylvania: Bethlehem.

Further reading

Key texts


  • Achenbach, T. M. (2000) Assessment of psychopathology. In A. Sameroff, M. Lewis, & S. Miller (Eds.), Handbook of developmental psychopathology (2nd ed.). New York: Plenum.
  • Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2002) Empirically based assessment and taxonomy: Applications to infants and toddlers. In R. Del Carmen-Wiggins & A. Carter (Eds.), Handbook of infant and toddler mental health assessment. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195144384


Additional material



External links

Template:Dyslexia and specific developmental disorders

fr:Trouble du développement