Putting It Together: Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence

In this module, you covered childhood neurodevelopmental disorders such as communication disorders, autism, and conduct disorders, including oppositional defiant disorder.  By this point, you should have a basic, yet firm grasp on understanding how each is unique in its presentation of symptoms, how they affect children, and common treatment methods. Take a look at some of the popular treatment methods. What might a treatment plan look like if you were to develop one based on a certain psychological perspective? Or how might one’s theoretical background or way of thinking about a disorder, prompt the research of a helpful method for treating it? How might you respond if you were a therapist treating someone with symptoms similar to those outlined in this module? How would you respond to the idea that some disabilities may simply be a matter of social construct or the perspective of neurodiversity?

As you reflect on what you’ve gleaned from this module, spend a moment reviewing the disorders discussed in this module:

  • Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome is a disorder caused by environmental factors due to ethanol exposure while developing in the womb.
  • Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder resulting from a single gene mutation in FMR1. 
  • Communication disorder: any disorder that affects someone’s ability to comprehend, detect, or apply language and speech to engage in discourse effectively with others. The following are types of communication disorders:
    • Speech sound disorder—previously called phonological disorder, for those with problems with pronunciation and articulation of their native language.
    • Childhood-onset fluency disorder (stuttering)—standard fluency and rhythm of speech is interrupted, often causing the repetition of whole words and syllables. May also include the prolongation of words and syllables, pauses within a word, and/or the avoidance of pronouncing difficult words and replacing them with easier words that the individual is better able to pronounce. This disorder causes many communication problems for the individual and may interfere with social communication and performance in work and/or school settings where communication is essential.
    • Social (pragmatic) communication disorder—this diagnosis described difficulties in the social uses of verbal and nonverbal communication in naturalistic contexts that affects the development of social relationships and discourse comprehension. The difference between this diagnosis and autism spectrum disorder is that in the latter there is also a restricted or repetitive pattern of behavior.
    • Unspecified communication disorder—for those who have symptoms of a communication disorder but who do not meet all criteria, and whose symptoms cause distress or impairment.
    • Articulation disorders (also called phonetic disorders)
    • Phonemic disorders (also called phonological disorders)
  • Autism spectrum disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, and repetitive patterns of behavior or interests.
  • Neurodevelopmental disorder is one of the disorders that are first diagnosed in childhood and involve developmental problems in academic, intellectual, social functioning.A young girl looking up from her paper with a pencil in hand.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is childhood disorder characterized by inattentiveness and/or hyperactive, impulsive behavior
  • Conduct disorder is a mental disorder diagnosed in childhood or adolescence that presents itself through a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate norms are violated.
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a disorder in the DSM-5 under disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders, defined as “a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness” in children and adolescents.
  • Motor disorders are malfunctions of the nervous system that cause involuntary or uncontrollable movements or actions of the body. These disorders can cause a lack of intended movement or an excess of involuntary movement.
    • Developmental coordination disorderalso known as developmental motor coordination disorder, developmental dyspraxia, or simply, dyspraxia, is a chronic neurological disorder beginning in childhood. It is also known to affect planning of movements and coordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body.
    • Stereotypic movement disorder is motor disorder with onset in childhood involving repetitive, nonfunctional motor behavior (e.g., hand waving or head banging), that markedly interferes with normal activities or results in bodily injury.
    • Tic disorders is a motor disorder that can involve motor tics (e.g., blinking or shrugging the shoulders) or vocal tics (e.g., humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase), although they might not always happen at the same time.
  • Enuresis is defined as voiding of urine into bed/clothing in children who are at least five years of age.
  • Encopresis is defined as either voluntary or involuntary voiding of the bowels (fecal incontinence) in inappropriate places in children who are at least four years of age.

Link to Learning

For an interesting perspective on working with challenging children, watch this TedX video.