Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is primarily characterized by ongoing patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. Individuals with ADHD may only show symptoms of inattention or symptoms hyperactivity-impulsivity, while others can have the combined type and show symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. These symptoms can often interfere with functioning or development – such as socially, in school, at work, and home.
It is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in childhood with the majority of children receiving a diagnosis during elementary school years. ADHD can continue to persist through adolescence and adulthood. Early intervention and medication can help manage the symptoms.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination, attention and health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. Although autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development, the most obvious clinical signs and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability of childhood. It occurs in two out 1000 children, appearing on acute, rehab and tertiary health care caseloads worldwide. It is a non-progressive condition whereby an injury occurs in a child’s brain before, during or shortly after birth, and can affect a child’s movement and posture, limiting their everyday activities.
Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common congenital malformation, accounting for about 1% of live births. The word “congenital” means existing at birth. A congenital heart defect can involve the walls or valves of the heart, or the arteries and veins near the heart. These structural anomalies can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart, causing it to slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, be blocked completely. Often, no known cause is found, but viral infections and certain inherited conditions or genetic syndromes can increase the risk of a baby to develop CHD. Fetal exposure to drugs or alcohol may also increase the risk. There are many types of CHD, ranging from simple to very complex.
Down syndrome (DS or DNS), also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all, or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8- or 9-year-old child, but this can vary widely.
Epilepsy is a seizure disorder and is characterized by unpredictable seizures. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages. Many people with epilepsy have more than one type of seizure and may have other symptoms of neurological problems as well. It is also important to note that seizures and epilepsy are not the same. An epileptic seizure is a temporary occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal activity in the brain. The abnormal activity is characterized by excessive neuronal activity and/or complex interactions between groups of neurons. With the right tools and therapy, while taking care of emotional health, diet and nutrition, physical activity, sleep, independent living, stress management, social relationship and education, children and adults can improve their outcomes and quality of life.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability.
People with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and may need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges.
You can’t tell if someone has FASD just by looking at them. There are also no specific medical tests, like a blood test, that can tell us. In order to determine if someone has FASD they must be diagnosed by a multidisciplinary team of experts. FASD is a lifelong disorder but early and effective interventions and supports can improve outcomes.
Children and young people with disabilities constitute about 4-6.5% of the population in many countries (1). In Canada, there are approximately 850,000 children with developmental disabilities. When a baby or preschooler reaches the developmental milestones in a different order or pace, or loses a previously acquired skill, there may be reason to suspect of a developmental disability. When a child has a developmental disability, he/she may experience life-long experiences affecting their mobility, language, learning, socialization, and/or self-care. Early signs and symptoms of childhood disability can vary greatly, however some tools and techniques can help all children with disabilities overcome some of life’s challenges. Prognosis and therapies will vary based on the child’s needs, however early diagnoses and interventions can have a positive impact and significantly improve outcomes for all children with disability.
1. Rosenbaum P; Childhood disability and social policies. BMJ. 2009 Apr 24 338:b1020. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b1020.
Global developmental delay (GDD) is a term used to describe a generalized delay in development caused by an alteration in the functioning of the central nervous system and is usually characterized by lower than average intellectual functioning along with significant limitations in at least two other areas of development. Common signs of global developmental delay include delayed acquisition of milestones (e.g., sitting up, crawling, walking), limited reasoning or development of conceptual abilities, poor social skills and judgement, aggressive behaviour as a coping skill, and communication difficulties. Global developmental delay has many causes which sometimes go undetermined. Early intervention and therapy can support a healthy development and the stimulation of the best capacities for children with GDD.
The birth of a newborn is a joyful and exciting time. However, sometimes, a baby is born with complications that require special medical care. Newborns may have difficulties associated with pregnancy complications, fetal development or related to labour and birth. Some of these newborns are at high-risk for developmental problems as they grow older.Fortunately, specialized care and advances in medical technology can help improve the health of a high-risk newborn and new mother. Babies have a much greater chance of surviving and having favourable outcomes than ever before.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood affecting approximately 1 in 1000 Canadian children. Children and adolescents that have arthritis have to cope with swelling in their joints, pain, difficulty walking, going upstairs, using their hands and manipulating objects. These difficulties may interfere with age-appropriate daily activities such as playing with friends, doing their favorite sport and physical activity, getting dressed, both at home and at school. Sometimes, these difficulties last well into adulthood.
Children who have brain-based developmental disorders, such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Epilepsy, are more likely than children without these disorders to have mental health issues. The prevalence of mental health conditions for children with developmental disabilities is more than the average for all other children. Approximately 30-50% of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities also have mental health conditions. Mental health issues range from ones that are very obvious, such as aggressive or combative behaviour, to ones that are less visible and obvious, such as anxiety or withdrawn behaviour reflective of depression.
There is evidence that children with developmental disabilities have a higher rate of mental health disorders than the general population.
Statistics show that children with developmental disabilities are:
33 times more likely to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD);
8 times more likely to have attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
6 times more likely to have a conduct disorder;
4 times more likely to have an emotional mental health condition;
3 times more likely to experience psychosis;
2 times more likely to have depression.
Some children may be easily triggered and have a harder time calming down, while others seem to cope better. Management of challenging behaviours through self-regulation or self-soothing depends on many factors. There may be neuro-biological factors involved that have to do with brain chemistry and circuitry, as well as factors related to the child’s social environment such as a positive and accommodating family, peer, or school environment.
Children with brain-based developmental disorders almost always need access to therapeutic programs that promote their development. In addition to providing ‘hands-on’ treatment, therapists make recommendations that can be integrated into childrens’ day-to-day lives at school and at home. These recommendations help children to develop skills they need to function and grow, and to ultimately feel better about themselves. Learn more
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) varies tremendously in causes, symptoms and outcomes. This may depend on the type of brain injury, the severity, and treatment options. TBI’s and concussions come from a blow to the head, or a violent movement of the cranium, causing a jolt to the brain. They can be caused by a number of reasons such as: violence, sports and recreational activities injuries, transportation accidents, a fall, or assaults. A TBI can be trivial, mild simple, mild complex, moderate and severe, which all have different needs and different possible outcomes. Doctors classify traumatic brain injury as mild, moderate or severe, depending on whether the injury causes unconsciousness, how long unconsciousness lasts and the severity of symptoms. If a TBI is suspected, it is important to speak to a doctor as soon as possible to determine the best course of action.