Developmental disorders in children are conditions that are characterized by children’s inability to acquire normal skills of development for their appropriate age. These conditions have the potential to affect their ability to behave, learn, and interact with their environment and those around them. While developmental disorders can be present from birth, they are not likely to be recognized until children show symptoms of complex cognitive and social tasks in their growth. There are several conditions in children that may reveal the presence of developmental disorders such as autism, mental retardation, dyslexia, pervasive developmental disorders, social anxiety disorder, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Most of these disorders share similar symptoms, which makes it different to define the exact condition children have unless medical checkup is carried out (Troy, 2010).
Interview with Dora Bjorn, a teacher at St. Winfred School for Special Children
Me: Hello, how are you?
Dora: Hello I am fine thank you. How are you?
Me: Am fine. You look great.
Dora: Aw! Thank you. You look beautiful.
Me: My name is Judy, am here to ask a few questions regarding your school and children. Is that alright with you?
Dora: Sure, why not? What do you want to know?
Me: First of all I just want to say, you are doing a noble job with these children.
Dora: Thank you. It certainly has its challenges but I am encouraged when I see children’s conditions improving after sometime of their stay here with us.
Me: Their stay? Do you allow them to board here?
Dora: Yes we do. It is the only way I know how to pay close attention to them. We have professional teachers who have been trained to take care of special children. In addition to that, we also have the school Clinic just down the hall where we have several clinicians to attend to their medical needs. I can take you there if you like.
Me: Thank you. I would love that. From what age of children do you admit to the school program? And what disorders can you manage?
Dora: We take children from the age of 4 to 12 years. We admit children with autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia.
Me: Why is that? I mean why don’t you take children of all ages and all disorders?
Dora: It is because we want to create an environment that will be favorable for their recovery and these two conditions have very similar symptoms such that before admitting to the school, we take tests to determine whether or not it is appropriate to have them here.
Me: How would you define the two conditions in terms of signs and symptoms, tests and treatments?
Dora: Actually both conditions are characterized by children’s inability to acquire verbal skills and learn fast, social behaviors and imaginative play.
Me: How serious is it? What tests do you take to determine if a child has autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia?
Dora: For most cases that we encounter, 90% of guardians and parents do not recognize these symptoms until their children have complexity in communication so by the time they are brought here, am afraid it is usually very serious.
Me: Is there any special treatment you give to the children?
Dora: Ha ha! That sounds obvious. Children here require close and very special attention because we have to communicate using signs during most of our sessions and so one on interaction makes it more efficient. For example, during sessions, we call them sessions here, not lessons because of the informal system we use. During sessions, we use normal and common activities that they can identify with faster. During these activities, we advice our teachers to have a one on one conversation to help them understand the activities better. At times they may read the teachers lips and after some time imitate the teacher’s actions.
Me: What challenges do you encounter here? I mean you do encounter challenges right?
Dora: Aha! More than you can imagine. Our greatest and common challenge is financial. Most of these children are abandoned and they do not have a home, which is why they board. This has become their home. Few children, who have families are brought here and their families do not visit them at all. That is why I used the word ‘abandoned’. Right now we have about 67 children, 20 are below 10 years and 47 are above 10 years. We depend totally on well wishers and few projects to help us raise money.
Me: Wow! Are the well wishers many in number? That is a big number of children you have. I do not understand how people can just abandon their children and not feel guilty.
Dora: I understand. Most of them are orphans who were brought here by their relatives or neighbors. At least that is the information we have in our records.
Me: Wow! Thank you very much for your time. I have to get going now!
Dora: Of course! You are welcome to visit us again. I am sure the children would live to meet you.
Me: Sure. I would love that. Thank you.
Interview with Elvis, a clinician at The Agakhan Mental Institution
Me: Good afternoon sir! How are you today?
Elvis: Good afternoon young lady! I am fine. How are you?
Me: Oh I am great and jovial today. Ha ha!
Elvis: Ha ha! Yes I can see that. How may I help you?
Me: I know you are busy so I will not take much of your time. I am here to ask you a few questions.
Elvis: Of course. I only hope I have all the answers.
Me: Ha ha! I want to believe that you do sir!
Elvis: You are optimistic. I like that. Okay, Go on.
Me: What age and kind of patients do you admit into your institution?
Elvis: Aaah, we do have patients of all ages but our most frequent cases are pre-school children. We admit patients with multiple disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, mental retardation and hyperactivity disorder.
Me: How severe are the cases at the time of admission as compared to a period after their stay here?
Elvis: We have very severe cases of autism because many parents do not consider it important to have their children medically checked until the symptoms are complex. For this reason, other disorders develop due to various symptoms that are unattended to.
Me: Oh my! That must be really hard for you. You have challenges?
Elvis: We lack sufficient facilities. Despite the bills paid, we have our staff to pay and the number of patients keeps increasing every year. So no matter how much we make, our facilities just cannot be enough. Currently, we have sent a request asking for support from the government and we hope that they will consider our request.
Me: Let us hope that they will. Are treatment measures different for all conditions? What about the signs and symptoms?
Elvis: Signs and symptoms of autism spectrum and hyperactivity disorders are different but all need more therapy than medication. Mental retardation on the other hand, requires medication and therapy. This is because all conditions affect the patient’s behavior mainly and so the therapy given is to change their behavioral patterns.
Me: Aaaah! Nice. Thank you. It has been an honor speaking with you.
Elvis: You are welcome. The pleasure has been mine as well.
Controversies in signs, symptoms, tests, and treatments of these conditions have involved parents, clinicians, teachers, and the media regarding necessary preventive measures. The percentage of children suffering developmental disorders has increased over the last decade. The number has risen from approximately 20% to 60% because of the ignorance in most parents and teachers. Others have neglected their children’s health condition due to poverty while others due to lack of knowledge. It is crucial for parents and clinicians to know that early identification of these conditions with proper treatment can grant children the chance to live happy and normal lives. According to clinicians, most common conditions, which have increased rapidly in children are autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (Troy, 2010). From the interviews I carried out in school and a mental institution it is evident that children suffering development disorders may develop more complex symptoms if not treated on time.
According to Elvis and Dora, children with development disorders need close attention as much as proper treatment in order to recover fully. Matson (2011) stated that caregivers need to give all their attention and patience, for example, eye-to-eye contact and repetition of instructions until children get what they are told. They require adult monitoring and encouragement all the time, for example, those around them should encourage them to do activities that will lead them to success and also praise them whenever they do something no matter how small and irrelevant it may seem. It is equally important that these children get to have balanced diets that will boost their immune systems. Children with development disorders have behaviors that vary from time to time depending on how serious their conditions are.
It is likely that children with these disorders will have behaviors such as impulsivity, talking without thinking. Over activity, restlessness or difficulty in staying still, and inattention which means they keep forgetting instructions. Also they will have socialization problems, meaning they experience difficulty interacting with their surrounding environment and people. The most common behavior is communication problem, meaning they find it difficult to express their feelings. Finally, they usually lack imagination which makes their preferences and interests limited. Their inability to have imagination causes them to develop poor memory skills and inability to solve problems even with the help of others. This means that existing signs and symptoms have the potential to develop other severe symptoms if not detected early (Matson, 2011).
While it is important to seek medical attention when these conditions are detected, there are medical implications which may be positive or negative. The implications will be positive if proper and professional care is given to children. For example, children are required to continue with their medication even after their conditions have improved to prevent future occurrences of symptoms. It is also necessary that their caregivers monitor their progress during and after treatment as well as create normal environment for them. For cases where patients refuse or fail to respond to treatment and therapy, it is wise to change the diagnosis to multiple treatments such that every symptom is treatment in a different way. This way, children’s behavior patterns become flexible and their self-esteem is developed (Volkmar, 2007).
While medical implications are generally positive, they will determine psychological implications in children. For example, when their behavior is normal and flexible, it gives them a stable psychological state such that they are able to define their own world without having to worry about their environment. Psychological treatment defines implications the patient will have after and during treatment. If the psychotherapeutic treatment fails, then implications will be negative which may lead to severe symptoms. In other cases, severe psychological symptoms may develop depending on the behavior of those giving care. If they lack patience and love for their patients and children, it is likely that they will develop a rebellious attitude towards treatment (Troy, 2010).
Psychological implications further determine the kind of environment to be set for children with developmental disorders. Children who are psychologically healthy will not have difficulty adjusting to a new environment as compared to those who are not psychologically healthy; meaning only conducive environments are recommended for special children. Clinicians recommend that children with development disorders be put in an environment that has children with similar cases because it makes the environment bearable and not too scary. When setting a school, children’s needs should be prioritized in order to make them feel loved and cared for (Troy, 2010). There should also be sufficient facilities that will care for those needs.
On the other hand, when setting a clinic, the resources should be sufficient and efficient to meet every need and conditions presented. The medical procedures should be simple and bearable for children and this can be facilitated by providing a proper environment. The environments should make them feel normal and confident, such that if a child is to transfer from a clinic environment to a special school environment, the environment would be conducive that they will not prefer one place than another one. For this to be achieved, parents, clinicians and teachers have professional roles to play in the children’s recovery process. Their roles include mentoring, teaching new skills, playing with the children and administering medication as directed by physicians (Lim, 2011).
Clinicians, teachers, and parents can play their roles and be effective when they involve children in several interesting activities. In schools, teachers may have activities such as giving instructions that are direct and brief, yet continue repeating instructions until children show signs that they understand what they are taught. Secondly, children may not develop an interest in learning unless it is in a familiar and accommodative environment. In clinics and at home, parents and clinicians can give parental support and training which will help develop normal behavioral patterns. This can be done through simple activities such as playing games that will lead them to win and praising them whenever they do something regardless of how irrelevant it may be (Lim, 2011).
Apart from setting the right environment in schools and clinics, Matson (2011) argues that it is crucial for the family and loved ones of children and patients with development disorders to get proper knowledge of the conditions. This is done through therapy sessions together with patients and children. The purpose of these therapy sessions for patients’ and children’s families is to make them understand the nature and nurture of the conditions. In addition to this, they become aware of the expectations that patients have of them during medication. When they are aware of nature and nurture of development disorders, they do not have to rely on others to care for their children because they have complete knowledge of what roles they are to play in caring for their children.
In conclusion, development disorders in children are conditions that may have severe consequences and eventually lead to death. For this reason, it is important that children get medical checkups occasionally to ensure there is no existence of disorder symptoms. Treatment should also be diagnosed correctly in order to achieve recommendable results. Several assessment tools are necessary for monitoring progress of children during and after medication. In addition to this, families and loved ones of patients should have knowledge of the nature and nurture of development disorders. In this way, they can offer necessary care that will result to creating a normal environment for patients. With the right diagnosis, children can regain their normal self and live normal fulfilling lives.