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Cayman Parent | Articles | Expert Advice | The Most Common Childhood Behavioural Disorders in Cayman

The Most Common Childhood Behavioural Disorders in Cayman

Medical, emotional, mental or psychological disorders can range in severity from very mild to profound and there is an exhaustive list of disorders that can be classified as ‘special needs’. We want to highlight a few of the more prominent disorders seen within the Cayman Islands.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (often abbreviated to ASD) is a multifaceted neurological disorder that affects communication, cognition and social skills. It is usually noticeable prior to three years of age. It is an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide range of behaviours and abilities, thus the reason it is referred to as a ‘spectrum’ disorder. There are several ‘red flag’ characteristics across three domains that provide strong indicators that ASD is present.


  • Does not respond to his or her name
  • Seems to hear sometimes, but not other times
  • Used to say a few words or babble, but now does not
  • May engage in ‘echolalia’ or repetition of words or phrases heard in conversation or from other sources (toys/television etc.) but no functional communication is initiated

Social interaction:

  • Demonstrates poor eye contact
  • Lack of warm, joyful expressions
  • Seems to be in his or her ‘own world’
  • Is not interested in interacting with other children or people
  • Does not like to play social interaction games like ‘peek-a-boo’


  • Repetitive movements with objects or repetitive verbalisations
  • Odd movements or posturing of body, arms, hands or fingers (such as hand flapping, rocking etc.)
  • Plays with toys unusually (i.e. only playing with a small part of the toy, like the wheel of a car, or lining toys up instead of playing with them)

A diagnosis of autism is usually made by a developmental paediatrician or a clinical psychologist. Obtaining a diagnosis often involves the input of a multidisciplinary team of various other therapists, such as speech language pathologists and occupational therapists who evaluate and treat children with ASD, and is attached to a level of severity.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on navigating Cayman life with an autistic child click here.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a common childhood disorder of the brain that affects how a person pays attention and concentrates on tasks. This neurological disorder is characterised by delayed frontal lobe development, which impacts a child’s ability to attend to tasks, stay organised, manage impulsive behaviours and follow through with instructions. ADHD is three times more likely to occur in boys than girls.


There are three types of ADHD – Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive and Combined. Here are the red flags:


  • Easily distracted by environmental noises and activities around them
  • Look around frequently
  • Often found to be ‘daydreaming’
  • Difficulties with staying focused on one task or activity
  • Difficulties with remembering instructions
  • Difficulties paying attention to detail
  • Difficulties with organising belongings and tasks


  • Always engaging in movement
  • Fidgeting when asked to sit still
  • Difficulties with remaining seated
  • Often stands instead of sitting at table
  • Often touching objects
  • Excessive talking, often during inappropriate times
  • Difficulties with waiting for a turn
  • Difficulties with standing in line
  • Impulsive behaviour or decisions


  • Characteristics from both the Inattentive type and Hyperactive-Impulsivity type are observed

ADHD is usually diagnosed by a psychologist, but treatment of the disorder may include the guidance and care of a psychiatrist. Diet, environmental changes, therapy and medication are all methods used to treat ADHD. Families usually work closely with their child’s paediatrician to monitor a child’s response to treatment methods.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are neurologically-based processing difficulties which interfere with the development of executive functioning skills and also impact the ability to learn basic skills such as reading, maths and writing. Children with a learning disability typically have difficulties with learning new tasks, remembering and recalling key pieces of information, answering questions appropriately, telling time, and often mix up the order of information (for e.g. mixing up letters during spelling or mixing up the order of a story). These disorders can include: auditory processing disorders, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, non-verbal learning disorders, visual motor/visual processing disorders.

Communication (Language) Disorders

The American Speech Hearing Association describes a language disorder as when a person has difficulties understanding others (i.e. receptive language), or sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings completely (i.e. expressive language) or a combination of the two. Typically children with language disorders have difficulties with expressing themselves clearly and fluently.

Many types of communication disorders fall under the diagnosis of a ‘Language Disorder’ including:


Many parents are cautious and scared about having their child ‘labelled’ or classified as having a special need. The fear that a child with special needs will be ostracised by their educators, peers and by society in general is a very real one that many parents struggle with on a daily basis. However, in most cases, having a diagnosis is beneficial to the child and entitles them to a myriad of services, classroom support and educational accommodations which, ultimately, will help them succeed.

Concerned your child might have a behaviour disorder? Click here for advice on what to do next.


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