Children

Children are both sources of immeasurable joy and sometimes great concern. There are several indications that something may be amiss in a young child. The following is only a brief guide of more often seen difficulties. Professional opinions should always be sought at the earliest possible stage. Caution against self-diagnosis is urged.




AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

People with autism (formerly called Asperger's Syndrome) have trouble understanding and relating to others, exhibit unusual behaviour and over or under react to sensory stimulation.

Early signs of autism include a child:

  • Arching his/her back to avoid being held
  • Rocking, spinning, flapping of arms or hands and hitting or banging her/his head
  • Did not babble by 9 months or has no single words by 16 months
  • Fails to look when others point out an object
  • Does not maintain good eye contact
  • Develops some language and then stops talking
  • Does not exhibit pretend play by 24 months
  • Has difficulty with hand-eye coordination
  • Does not react to sudden loud noises
  • Does not turn his/her head toward you when you speak

DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER

Early signs of Developmental Disorders (including Asperger’s Syndrome) may include some of the above as well as:

  • Extreme clinging and climbing behaviours
  • Sensory sensitivity (light, noise, smells, touch, food)
  • Inability to self-regulate emotions and behaviours
  • Normal milestones for speech
  • Delay for fine or gross motor skills
  • Socially inappropriate hugging or hitting

A clinical psychologist is best able to help with understanding and improving the condition, dealing with related anxiety and mood difficulties, managing the child and consequences for their family’s lifestyle, family reactions and strategies to assist with living in a neurotypical society.




CEREBAL PALSY

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle control. The severity can vary from clumsiness to immobility.

Early warning signs of cerebral palsy include:

  • Delayed motor milestones including rolling over, sitting, crawling, or walking
  • Excessively flaccid and relaxed or excessively stiff and rigid muscle tone
  • Poorly coordinated movements
  • Persistence of infantile reflexes

A clinical psychologist can help with managing the lifestyle consequences, dealing with related anxiety and mood difficulties, family reactions and strategies to assist with living in a mobile society.




SEIZURES

When children have focal seizures they are impossible to ignore. Given their dramatic appearance they will quickly gain attention. Much more difficult are other kinds of seizures, such as simple or complex partial seizures, which can be mistaken for different conditions, such as migraines, psychological illness or much later, even drug or alcohol related.

Observe and follow up spells that come at inappropriate times, such as when your child is in the middle of speaking or doing something and suddenly stops. See a general practitioner at the earliest possible stage. An EEG sometimes followed by an MRI are the typical approaches to assessment and diagnosis.

A clinical psychologist can help with dealing with related anxiety and mood difficulties, managing the lifestyle consequences, family reactions and strategies that may help to avoid the triggers.



LEARNING DISABILITIES

A clinical psychologist can best help with identifying learning disabilities and with strategies to improve them, which may include other specialists.

Preschool

  • Problems pronouncing words
  • Trouble word finding
  • Stammering or stuttering
  • Difficulty rhyming
  • Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colours, shapes, days of the week
  • Difficulty following directions or learning routines (EF)
  • Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or colouring within the lines (EF)
  • Trouble with buttons, zips, shoelaces (EF)


Ages 5-9

  • Trouble identifying letters and making the relevant sounds
  • Unable to join sounds to make words
  • Mixing basic words when reading
  • Misspells words and makes frequent errors reading
  • Trouble learning basic arithmetic concepts
  • Difficulty telling time (EF)
  • Slow to learn new skills

Ages 10-13

  • Difficulty with reading comprehension or mathematics skills
  • Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems (EF)
  • Disliking reading and writing
  • Avoids reading aloud
  • Spells the same word differently in a single document
  • Poor organisational skills (room messy, homework, disorganised) (EF)
  • Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud (EF)
  • Poor handwriting (EF)




EXECUTIVE FUNCTION (DYSFUNCTION)

Typically noted through attending and hyperactive difficulties, there are many other areas of thinking, behaving and controlling emotions that may be compromised by difficulties with executive function. Many of these are seen in autism spectrum disorders.

Signs include:

  • Difficulty following directions or learning routines
  • Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or colouring within lines
  • Trouble with buttons, zips, shoelaces
  • Difficulty telling time
  • Slow to learn new skills
  • Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems
  • Poor organisational skills (room messy, homework, disorganised)
  • Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud
  • Poor handwriting
  • Difficulty transitioning and initiating new activities
  • Monitoring behaviour (as in speech relevance and meaning)
  • Ending an activity
  • Understanding higher level concepts (literal understanding only)

HEARING IMPAIRMENT

You should follow up if your child:

  • Does not react to sudden loud noises
  • Does not turn his/her head toward you when you speak
  • Does not coo or babble by 6 months of age
  • Is slow to develop language

A clinical psychologist can help with managing the lifestyle consequences, family reactions and strategies to assist with living in a hearing society.




VISION IMPAIRMENT

Experts recommend that all children have an eye exam shortly after birth, at 6 months of age, before entering school, and throughout the school years.

Some indications that your child may have a vision problem:

  • A change in the usual appearance of the eye(s)
  • They constantly cross eyes (most babies cross their eyes in the first 6 months)
  • Squints or closes one eye
  • Blinks or rubs eyes frequently
  • One eye drifts in a different direction
  • Poor hand-eye coordination


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