9 Common Developmental and Emotional Issues in Children 

child developmental issues

No one wants to see their children struggle with developmental issues. However, diagnoses, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, have skyrocketed since the turn of the century. If your child is diagnosed with a developmental issue, it’s essential to get access to the appropriate services. These services can help your child to learn the skills they will need as an adult. Early intervention is vital.

Here are ten common developmental issues children may have:

1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD, formerly Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder)

Approximately one in 50 to 68 kids is now diagnosed with this disorder. Each case is unique, so what may be true for one child may not be for another. For example, one child with ASD may have sensory issues, which can range in either extreme. Another may have problems with connecting social cues.

Other common symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder include:

  • Limited interests 
  • Lack of imaginative play and a preference for putting objects in a line
  • Difficulty communicating their needs as well as in recognizing other people’s needs
  • Not pointing out things that interest them or looking when another person does
  • A preference for things that are predictable
  • Difficulty adjusting to even the slightest change
  • Difficulty recognizing and navigating their feelings
  • Repetition with actions, such as hand flapping or words. Using repetitive words or phrases as a substitute for a conversation. These behaviors are called self-stimulation or “stimming” behaviors. 

One standard treatment for ASD is ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). The original goal of these types of services was to make kids on the spectrum “indistinguishable from their peers.” ABA therapy services have evolved today. That is no longer the goal and ABA services have shown significant positive results.

Many people who argue that ABA isn’t practical, may prefer occupational or speech therapies alone. Other treatments include social skills training, discrete trial training (DTT), and early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI). Many therapies today incorporate assistive technologies and floor time. This helps children with ASD to explore their feelings and relationships.

2. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

ADHD is diagnosed almost as commonly as ASD. As of 2016, it is estimated to affect nearly 9.5% of the child population. The DSM-V distinguishes between three types of ADHD—the inattentive type, the hyperactive-impulsive type, and the combination type. 

Children with inattentive ADHD mostly have issues with staying organized and focused. Children with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD are restless and tend to interrupt, blurt out their thoughts and fidget when they sit. Combined-type ADHD is the most common form of ADHD and children tend to show both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

ADHD often looks like normal child behavior, so it can be difficult to diagnose. For example, it’s normal for kids to daydream when they’re bored, forget homework occasionally, or lose something they need. With ADHD, however, the behaviors are more severe and can cause issues both at home and at school. 

Some other symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Getting frustrated easily
  • Difficulty when required to perform publicly
  • Forgetfulness when trying to complete daily tasks
  • Getting distracted easily

Behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and medication are the most commonly recommended treatments for ADHD. ADHD medication is designed to regulate the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. 

3.Intellectual Disability (also known in the past as mental retardation, mentally handicapped, mentally challenged)

The exact cause of an intellectual disability isn’t known. However, some issues may be detected even during pregnancy. How well your child will function in society often depends on the severity of his or her disability, good social support, and his or her access to effective services. 

4. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

ODD is characterized by vindictive and disrespectful behaviors towards adults. It must occur for at least six months to be diagnosed. Children with ODD often justify their behavior as responses to unreasonable demands.

Common symptoms of ODD include:

  • Temper problems
  • Continuously arguing with adults and refusing to comply with rules and requests
  • Constant anger and resentment
  • Malicious and vengeful behaviors
  • Going out of his or her way to annoy others

Oppositional defiant disorder causes issues both at school and at home. It’s diagnosed when antisocial personality disorder and conduct disorder are ruled out.

Common treatments for ODD include psychotherapy for both parents and the affected child. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Multisystemic Therapy (MST) are effective and popular treatment approaches. The child may also be prescribed medications to help curb aggression and irritability.

5. Conduct Disorder

Before the DSM-V, conduct disorder was used as a precursor to an official diagnosis of psychopathy. Conduct disorder is identifiable by aggressive behaviors toward people and animals, property damage, theft, deceitfulness, etc. Symptoms of conduct disorder are categorized as shown below.

Aggression toward people and animals:

  • Constantly bullies, threatens, or intimidates
  • Often threatens with or uses weapons
  • Physical harm to people and animals
  • A history of sexual assault
  • A history of mugging and robbing

Property Destruction

  • A history of arson and general destruction to property

Theft and Deceitfulness

  • Lies to get what he or she wants
  • Breaks into houses, cars, or buildings
  • Often shoplifts and commits forgery

Rule Violations

  • Often stays out past curfew, runs away, or skips school before the age of 13 

There are two types of conduct disorder:  childhood-onset and adolescent-onset. Youths with childhood-onset conduct disorder are usually male and may have been diagnosed with ODD in the past. They typically display a lot of aggression and have dysfunctional relationships with the people around them. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (APD) as adults.

Youths with adolescent-onset conduct disorder are less likely to be aggressive. As a result, they are much less likely to be diagnosed with APD as adults. Their relationships also tend to be much less dysfunctional compared to youths with childhood-onset conduct disorder.

6. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Post traumatic stress disorder doesn’t have to be due to abuse. Children who have had a severe injury or have survived a significant trauma, such as a car accident, may suffer from PTSD. They may also experience PTSD after witnessing a traumatic incident or a crime involving someone else.

Common Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Constant nightmares of the event
  • Ongoing sadness, fear, or a sense of hopelessness
  • Being easily startled or upset by loud noises, hyperawareness
  • Avoiding reminders of the event
  • Experiencing intrusive flashbacks of the event

Since the child is often unwilling or unable to discuss the event, creative therapies such as art therapy, music therapy, and play therapy, are often very effective. CBT is practical as well as it helps to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones and helps the child to stay focused on the present. In some cases, medication may be necessary to decrease the severity of PTSD symptoms.

7. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Some kids, especially those who play sports, might think they’ll run into bad luck if they don’t wear a specific lucky item to games. However, children with OCD have repetitive negative thoughts, called obsessions. Like the adults, they feel they must perform certain compulsions or actions to reduce their distress and make their obsessions go away. Sometimes they may think that they have to perform the compulsions in a particular way for them to work.

One myth is that people with OCD are always neat and organized. That may be true for some, but most people with OCD are laser-focused on repetitive behavior to the point of neglecting everything else. It is also important to note that behavioral rituals can change over time.

Some children with OCD are treated with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is arguably the most common form treatment. 

8. Tourette Syndrome (TS)

Tourette syndrome is a condition of the nervous system. People with TS have tics that they cannot stop themselves from doing. Tics are sudden behaviors or sounds that people do repeatedly. Common tics include blinking, grunting, jerking an arm, or blurting out a word. 

Many people with TS have tics that are mild and don’t interfere with their daily lives. As a result, they do not need treatment. If tic do interfere with daily function or cause pain or injury, medication and behavioral therapy may help.

9. Anxiety

It’s normal for babies to be distressed about being away from their mothers or for children to fear certain things that are unfamiliar to them. However children with anxiety feel fearful or tense to the point that it interferes with their school and home activities.

Common symptoms of anxiety in children include:

  • Feeling afraid, sometimes to the point of tears, when away from parents
  • Having phobias about certain situations such as doctor visits, or things such as insect bites
  • Extreme worry about negative events such as injuries or natural disasters
  • Having panic disorder-like episodes, such as labored breathing, heart pounding, dizziness, and shaking
  • Irritability and anger
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue, headaches, and stomachaches

If your children is showing symptoms of anxiety it is recommended that you speak with your child’s pediatrician who may refer you to a licensed mental healthcare provider. A mental health provider is trained to diagnose emotional issues like anxiety and provide effective treatment. Behavioral therapies, such as CBT, are often very effective against anxiety. Helping your child to adopt a healthier lifestyle, such as a nutritious diet, a sufficient sleep schedule, and a predictable routine, may be recommended. Even your child’s activities at school may be included in the final treatment plan.

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