Possible neuropsychological disorders in adopted children

Adopted children are a group at risk of developing certain neuropsychological pathologies. Why? Many have suffered, among their antecedents, prenatal exposure to toxins -mainly alcohol-, intrauterine growth retardation, prematurity, abandonment, abuse and neglect, early and prolonged institutionalization, and emotional and psychosocial deprivation during institutionalization.

What are the most common neuropsychological pathologies?

– Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): These are children with a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with or reduces the quality of social or academic functioning. It is the most frequently observed problem, especially in international adoptees.
– Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: This is a group of disorders presented by children whose mothers drank alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome represents the severe end of these disorders.
– Psychomotor retardation: This term is used for children under 5 years of age with cognitive difficulties. Its presence does not necessarily mean that they will have an intellectual disability in the future, although the more items are altered and the greater the alteration, the greater the probability of long-term intellectual disability.
– Intellectual disability: It is a disorder that begins during the developmental period, which implies the existence of limitations in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior in the conceptual, social and practical domains. Psychomotor retardation and intellectual disability have a similar prevalence among national and international adoptees.
– Microcephaly: It is defined by a head circumference below the 3rd percentile for age and sex. It is often associated with intellectual disability. It is more frequently observed in international adoptees.

Other pathologies, such as Epilepsy, Infantile Cerebral Palsy and Autism Spectrum Disorders, are observed less frequently, and their prevalence is similar to that of the general child population.

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We recommend the inclusion of neuropsychological assessments during the pediatric follow-up of adopted children, especially if they have several neurodevelopmental risk antecedents, in order to detect early clinical symptoms suggestive of cognitive or behavioral disorders.

Finally, it should be noted that the main buffering factor for the development of these neuropsychological alterations is the positive adoptive family environment.