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 (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.
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 (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:
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 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.
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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