What are neurodevelopmental disorders?
Neurodevelopmental disorders are pathologies of neurobiological origin or deficits that can appear as a result of abnormal brain development or brain damage. These types of disorders usually appear at early ages and jeopardize the development of the brain and can cause disabilities that may accompany the person throughout his or her life.
These abnormalities or damage can occur at different times: during pregnancy, in the perinatal period or during childhood. Depending on when these abnormalities or damage occur, their repercussions may be different.
Neurodevelopmental disorders affect the areas of language, communication, attention and learning. For this reason, early detection and early intervention are very important to improve the prognosis of these disorders.
Prognosis of the disease
Some neurodevelopmental disorders can be solved by appropriate intervention and treatment. In contrast, other neurodevelopmental disorders are chronic, but even so, proper intervention is also essential because it can reduce or eliminate the symptoms caused by the disorder in question.
Symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders
The usual symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders are the following:
- Poor school performance
- Difficulty following rules
- Excess energy
- Language deficits
- Isolation in social relationships
- Difficulty controlling emotions
However, there are different types of neurodevelopmental disorders, so symptoms may vary depending on the type of disorder.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a disorder that usually appears in childhood and is manifested by difficulties in maintaining attention, as well as impulsive and hyperactive behavior. This disorder has a number of specific symptoms, including the following:
- Difficulty maintaining attention.
- Easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli
- Inability to organize and complete tasks
- Excess energy
- Difficulty performing activities quietly
- Difficulty taking turns
Specific learning disorders
Learning disorders are characterized by academic performance that is below expected performance. These disorders hinder school performance, making it difficult for the child to make adequate progress. Among the main learning disorders are the following:
- Reading disorder: also known as dyslexia, this is characterized by difficulty in the ability to recognize words, which generates slow reading and poor comprehension.
- Disorder of written expression: also known as dysgraphia, this disorder is characterized by difficulties in writing words.
- Calculation disorder or dyscalculia: affects the learning of mathematical knowledge.
People suffering from a communication disorder are those who are not able to communicate adequately or to learn to do so even though they have sufficient mental abilities. In this group of disorders are:
- Expression disorder
- Comprehension disorder
- Phonological disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
ASDs include developmental disabilities that can cause socialization, communication and behavioral problems, which can become chronic. People with an autism spectrum disorder process information in their brain differently than others. They have difficulties in social communication.
Medical testing for neurodevelopmental disorders
To diagnose a neurodevelopmental disorder, a developmental screening test can be performed, which is a test that indicates whether children are learning basic skills at the right time or whether they may have a developmental delay. This test is performed by the expert through a series of questions to the parents and through observation of the child’s behavior. This evaluation can be complemented with hearing and vision tests, genetic and neurological tests.
What are the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders?
There are different factors that can affect normal brain development. These causes can be classified as follows:
- Congenital causes: genetic mutations, metabolic disorders.
- Prenatal causes: maternal infections, nutritional deficiencies.
- Perinatal causes: derived from complications during delivery, especially lack of oxygen (hypoxia).
- Postnatal causes: head injuries, infections such as meningitis, exposure to environmental toxins after delivery.
Treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders
The methodology usually followed for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders is based on facilitating communication and stimulating the child’s neurodevelopment. This can be achieved through the establishment of objectives together with the family and coordinated at all times with the school and other professionals.
In any case, the treatment of this type of disorders will always depend on the type of disorder and the predominant symptoms. Therefore, treatments can be divided into:
- Pharmacological treatment: this includes medications prescribed by the medical professional. These drugs vary depending on the symptoms and the type of disorder.
- Non-pharmacological treatment: includes the support of specialists, through the stimulation of skills that have not been developed correctly.
Which specialist treats it?
The specialist in charge of the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders is the expert in Psychiatry.