Children's Learning & Behavioural Problems

This information was reproduced with permission from Professor Trevor S Parry and the Medical Journal of Australia from his article on Assessment of developmental learning and behavioural problems in children and young people.

There is a lot of talk about ADHD and other developmental disorders which has triggered my desire to include an article on this topic. It is also a topic close to my heart as I was diagnosed with dyslexia and never officially treated.

Not all children have learning difficulties and some children have more than one developmental problem or a combination of several. I would like to take a quick look at the three most common.

What are these disorders?

ADHD is now well established as a genetic, neurobiochemical and developmental disorder. Symptoms such as hyperactivity–impulsivity, unable to be organized or self-regulated, not being able to handle multiple stimuli, noise or crowed situation, resistance to change, need to be present before the age of 7years.

Dyslexia is related to a learning difficult with reading and spelling but may also involve difficulties with mathematics, and handwriting.

Autism is often seen by a child’s inability to interact socially, showing poor communication skills, delayed speech, sometimes strange repetitive and ritual behaviour.

Please note that these behaviours should not be confused with normal variations associated with develop. Being aware of what to look for in your child may help them adjust and cope better throughout their life.

Some Developmental Difficulties

(From Parry TS. Modern Medicine 1998; 41: 56-63. Reproduced with permission).

Birth – Two year

  • Delayed pincer grip (after 10months)

  • Inability to crawl – bottom shuffling

  • Delayed walking

  • Absence of single words (by 18months)

Two – Three year

  • Poor sleep

  • Irritable

  • Not climbing or fear of climbing

  • Not stacking blocks

  • Avoiding pencil tasks

  • No interest in books

  • Reduced imaginative play

  • Excessive tantrum

Three – Five year

  • Delayed or awkward running

  • Not pedalling a tricycle

  • Bumping into objects

  • Excessive falling

  • Not hopping

  • Difficulties with cutting or threading

  • Avoiding puzzles and constructional toys

  • Difficulties with dressing and buttons

  • Finger feeding rather than using utensils

  • Not using developed simple sentences (by 2years)

  • Speech unclear to strangers

  • Use of gestures or mime more than words (by 3years)

  • Unsettled sleep

  • Persistent tantrums

  • Inability to play with peers

  • Inability to self-dress and unawareness of toileting skills

What’s the next step?

If you suspect your child has a behavioural or learning difficulty you will need professional assistance from your doctor or a paediatrician with additional training in developmental and behavioural paediatrics as well as possibly speech and occupational therapists, educational and clinical psychologists.

You may also need the help of a social worker and a visit to a child development centre where they can assist in further assessment of the problem and provide guidelines for early intervention. Early intervention may help improve emotional and social problems which will assist your child throughout life.

"Parry TS. 12. Assessment of developmental learning and behavioural problems in children and young people. MJA 2005; 183: 43-47. ©Copyright 2005. The Medical Journal of Australia - reproduced with permission"

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