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What are Some Developmental Problems Children May Have?

By O. Wallace
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Although the diagnosis of developmental problems in a child may be devastating, it is fairly uncommon. In a 1994 report issued by the US Census Bureau’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), in the age group of children under five years old, only 3.4% of children have developmental problems. A child with a developmental problem or disorder has a significant delay physically, cognitively or mentally. This may be manifested in any number of symptoms, including problems with walking, understanding and using language, following instruction, eating and so on. It is important to note that if the child suffers from difficulties related to sight, speech impairment or hearing, he or she is not necessarily developmentally delayed.

Although there is a generally accepted timeline for development, what is considered “normal” can range significantly. Language development and walking can vary drastically between children and still be considered normal. Some children are born prematurely and need extra time to catch up with children their own age.

Development can be affected by many things. If a child suffers from a physical disability, he or she may not develop along a normal timeline. For instance, if he or she has spina bifida, walking may not come as easily or at all.

Many children put certain skills on hold while developing others, as is the case with a child who is intent on crawling but neglects working on fine motor skills for a short time. Some children may simply not be interested in achieving a milestone at the moment, and parents may become worried that they’re not developing “normally.” Speech may seemingly be delayed due to an undiagnosed problem such as a hearing impairment.

One of the primary problems the medical field has focused a lot of its attention on is a group called pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). These include a wide range of social and communication disorders, such as autistic spectrum disorders. An autistic spectrum disorder is a neurobiological condition in which communication and social skills are delayed. This spectrum of developmental disorders includes Asperger's Syndrome. Other disorders characterized as PDD include childhood disintegrative disorders and PDD-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

Other developmental problems that can cause developmental delays include Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tourettes syndrome, cerebral palsy, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), bedwetting and general learning disorders such as dyslexia. Doctors cannot always diagnose why a child is experiencing developmental problems. It may be the result of a problem in the brain stemming from a biological or neurological defect. Other causes of developmental disorders may be genetic or environmental. If you or your doctor suspects developmental disorders, he or she will order an involved developmental assessment of the child’s language, mental, social, physical and emotional abilities in order to determine the problem and decide on a course of treatment.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By subway11 — On Jul 08, 2010

Sunny27- I agree with you. I don’t know if the incidence of ADHD has risen or are we just learning about the condition. It seems that more children are being diagnosed with this disorder now. ADHD is becoming more common which helps parents cope because they don’t feel alone.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 08, 2010

Great article- I know a lot of parents struggle with their children’s ADHD. A parent really gets frustrated because many of these children are intelligent, they just can’t focus long enough to finish an assignment. That really becomes a problem as the child ages because children in the later elementary grades are expected to perform at a certain level independently.

A child in my daughter’s class has ADHD and she is struggling in almost all of her subjects. The poor girl repeated third grade once and is currently failing a second time. It is really sad. She just can not focus on the assignments in class and almost never finishes them. I know that this disorder like many others mentioned in the article really devastates parents but at least we are learning more about the disorder.

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