The following is a review of many of the most commonly diagnosed childhood disorders

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Childhood is often thought of as being one of the happiest times in a person's life - a time where a carefree attitude and a worry-free life provide the environment in which a child grows and develops.

For youngsters with childhood disorders, however, this isn't always the case.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is a disorder usually first diagnosed in infancy, childhood or adolescence.

There are 4 recognized types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They are: Predominantly Inattentive type; Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive type; Combined type (inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity); and ADHD - Not Otherwise Specified.

There is a high level of correlation between children with ADHD and other psychiatric illnesses. This included illnesses ranging from behavioral, mood, family, anxiety, cognitive, social to school functioning, with the greatest increase in those with the ADHD - combined subtype.

Autism may manifest in early infancy, with the infant shying away from the parent's touch, not responding to a parent who returns after an absence, and inappropriate gaze behavior. The Autistic child may fail to meet early language and other developmental milestones. And there can be as much as a 3-year delay between the report of symptoms and the diagnosis, which is usually made at around age five.

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Disorder is a separate Autistic Spectrum disorder which does not meet criteria for other Pervasive Developmental Disorders or Schizophrenia. Features of Asperger's Disorder are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of repetitive patterns of behavior, interests and activities, and significant impairment in social, occupational and other important areas of functioning. Because there are no significant language delays or cognitive deficits, Asperger's is considered a form of high functioning autism.

Childhood Disintegrative Disorder strikes children who have developed normally through at least their first two years of life. They then become impaired in at least two of the following major functional areas: social, communication, restricted receptive language, or stereotyped movements. Though the age of onset is later, in the most severe cases, these children can resemble autistic children, although the severity is generally less. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder is also known as Heller's Disorder.

Childhood disorders NOS - This diagnosis is used for disorders with onset in infancy, childhood, or adolescence that do not meet the criteria for any specific disorder. According to the ICD-10, there are two sub-categories: 1) Other specified behavioral and emotional disorders usually occurring during in childhood and adolescence and 2) Unspecified behavioral and emotional disorders with onset usually occurring in childhood and adolescence.

There are 3 feeding and eating disorders of infancy or early childhood.

1. The first is Pica, in which the child persistently eats non-nutritive substances for at least one month. The behavior must be developmentally inappropriate, and not culturally sanctioned. Pica appears more frequently in young children than adults.

2. The second disorder is rumination disorder, in which the infant or child repeatedly regurgitates and rechews food, after a period of normal functioning. The symptoms of rumination disorder must last for at least one month.

3. The last disorder is feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood, in which there is a feeding disturbance manifested by persistent failure to eat enough food and a significant failure to gain weight or weight loss.

Conduct Disorder is essentially a disorder where the person violates the social norms and rights of others. Those with conduct disorder are habitually in trouble, either with parents, teachers or peers. Despite presenting a tough image to those around them, they have a low self-esteem. Their frustration tolerance, irritability, temper outbursts and recklessness are hallmarks. Conduct Disorder may lead to adult antisocial personality disorder.

Disruptive Behavior Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) is utilized when there are conduct or oppositional-defiant behaviors that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for either conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, but in which there is notable impairment.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Learning Disorders occur in three major categories: reading, mathematics, and written expression. Reading problems generally occur before the age of 7. This is followed usually by problems with spelling and written language expression by the age of 8. Mathematical learning disorders often are not detected until after rote memorization mathematics work has ended, and application of more abstract skills is necessary. These diagnoses are given only after standardized testing in the particular area is significantly below that expected by the child's chronological age, IQ, and educational level.

Mental Retardation is based on both IQ and deficits in functioning. It is not a single, simple syndrome, but rather a state of impairment. By definition, to have the label Mental Retardation, the person must have an IQ below 70, and impairments in adaptive functioning in at least two of the following areas: communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of community resources, self-direction, functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and safety. Finally, the onset must be before age 18. There are 4 levels of Mental Retardation, based on IQ: Mild, with a mental age of 8.5 to 11.0 years; Moderate, with a mental age of 6.0 to 8.5 years; Severe, with a mental age of 3.75 to 6.0 years, and Profound, with a mental age of 0 to 3.75 years.

Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder - With Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, children are impaired in both the understanding and expressing of language. The receptive and expressive disorders may be either acquired, congenital or developmental.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a disorder in which children ignore or defy adults’ requests and rules. They may be passive, finding ways to annoy others, or active, verbally saying "No". They tend to blame others for their mistakes and difficulties. When asked why they are so defiant, they may say that they are only acting against unreasonable rules. They are different from children with conduct disorders in that they do not violate the rights of others. The behaviors of Oppositional Defiant Disorder are present at home, but not necessarily in other situations, such as school, or with other adults.

Pervasive Developmental Disorder - This indicates a severe, pervasive impairment in social interaction or communication skills, or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests and activities. The criteria for a specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), schizophrenia and schizotypal and avoidant personality disorders are not med. This diagnosis generally has a better outcome than does autistic disorder.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is characterized by the breakdown of social ability of a child. Reactive Attachment Disorder is associated with the failure of the child to bond with a caretaker in infancy or early childhood. This can be caused by many factors, ranging from child neglect to the child being hospitalized for severe medical problems. The children may display either indiscriminate social extroversion as they grow older (treating all people as if they were their best friend) or showing mistrust of nearly everyone.

Rett Syndrome is a disorder that is exclusive to females. For the first 6 months of life, development is normal. At that point, they begin to exhibit many of the symptoms of autism, such as stereotyped movements, poor social interaction, and impaired communication. In addition, children with Rett Syndrome also have problems with both expressive and receptive language, psychomotor retardation, and poorly coordinated gait and/or trunk movements, along with decreased head growth. They will, as they mature, however, gain back a degree of positive social interaction.

Selective Mutism is a disorder in which children may talk at home but due to severe anxiety, are unable to speak in certain social situations. Their anxiety may affect their ability to communicate in other ways as well. For a diagnosis of Selective Mutism to be made the communication problem must last at least one month, without treatment SM can persist for years. Onset is usually quite slow, with children showing inhibited temperaments as infants, often displaying Separation Anxiety through their toddler years. SM is often not diagnosed until the child begins school, and sometimes even later due to a lack of awareness in Pediatricians and other Healthcare workers.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is a disorder that affects children who are afraid to be separated from the main caretakers in their lives, even to go to a friend's house or school. When separated, they are constantly afraid that something horrible will happen to either themselves or to their primary caretaker (they or the caretaker will die, for instance). When the subject of separating is brought up, the child with Separation Anxiety Disorder begins to present with somatic symptoms ranging from headaches to nausea and vomiting, with anxiety.

Stuttering is a disturbance in the fluency and time patterning of speech that is inappropriate for the patient’s age. Stuttering may contain sound repetitions, prolongations, interjections, pauses in words, word substitutions to avoid blocking, and audible or silent blocking.

Research shows that 12 million American children suffer from some type of mental illness. It also shows that fewer than one in five receive the treatment they need to recover from their illness. When we think about topics such as depression or anxiety, we don't normally think of them as including young people. Most adults don't consider that emotional problems may effect a child, too. The reality is that children today deal with emotional issues and stress, the same as adults. Understandably, they often have a more difficult time handling and overcoming painful emotions and situations.

What types of illnesses effect children? Remarkably, children deal with some of the same types of disorders that adults do.

* Depression, once thought of as strictly an "adult" illness, affects 3 to 6 million children in America. Depression in children has many of the same symptoms as it does in adults: sadness, helplessness, fatigue and low self-esteem. Recognizing depression in children, however, is sometimes difficult. One of the problems often encountered is the inability of a child to accurately express how he or she feels. A young child may not understand the concept of "helplessness " and therefore cannot explain it to an adult. This appears to be a major reason why so many children who suffer from depression go untreated. For those who do receive the needed treatment, therapy is essential. Therapy treatment teaches a child to express feelings and learn to adapt to and cope with environmental stresses.

* Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) affects from 3 to 10 percent of all children in America. This condition is sometimes referred to as hyperactivity, minimal brain dysfunction, minimal brain damage and hyperkinetic syndrome. ADD is a child's inability to concentrate, learn and maintain a normal level of activity. With the disorder, a child usually requires close and constant supervision, is excessively active, and has difficulty finishing any activity requiring concentration. The disorder often appears before the age of seven and is more prominent in boys than in girls. Treatment for the child with ADD can include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Between 70 and 80 percent of children who suffer from ADD respond to treatment and learn to better control his or her own behavior.

* Nearly all children have certain fears at different stages of their development. Fear of monsters, the bogeyman or strangers are certainly not uncommon. Normally, a child merely outgrows these fears. Sometimes, though, fears may persist and develop, interfering with a child's normal schedule. These fears may be simple phobias; fear of certain people, places or things, and may subside without any type of treatment. More often than not, children with childhood phobias do not receive treatment for their fears. It is important to consider, however, that treatment may be required if the fear persists or accelerates. Treatment for childhood phobias is comparable to that of adult phobias. The child is treated with behavioral therapy in which they are exposed to the feared object and must learn to overcome their anxieties and manage their fears. The phobia generally disappears or decreases so that it no longer interferes with the child's daily activities.

* Being separated from a parent may be a traumatic time for a child, especially if he or she is not old enough to understand the circumstances of the separation. It is usually overcome when the child's attention is diverted or he or she adapt to the surroundings. For some children, the anxiety of being away from a parent or loved one is too overwhelming to comprehend, and causes severe emotional stress. Separation anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a child develops a severe anxiety, almost to the point of panic, when he or she is separated from a parent or loved one. This anxiety is so intense that it interferes greatly with the everyday activities of the child. Separation anxiety disorder may cause a child to feel faint, be nauseated, or develop headaches. Children suffering from separation anxiety disorder are often afraid to visit or sleep at a friend's house, go to school, or even leave the house unless accompanied by a parent. Therapy and medication are two methods of treatment which usually allow the child to overcome or cope with the separation.

* By far the most common single group of psychiatric illnesses in American children is conduct disorders. Many people confuse a child with a conduct disorder with simply being rebellious or being a juvenile delinquent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Studies suggest that a child with a conduct disorder often has underlying problems that have not been diagnosed. The disorder may result from a child's attempt to cope with his or her hostile environment or from a chemical imbalance in a child's biological structure. Research does indicate that children that have parents who suffer from the same problems are more vulnerable to develop a conduct disorder. Conduct disorders do not go away without proper intervention and appropriate treatment. Treatment is generally geared toward making the child realize and understand the effects of their behavior. For children suffering from an attention deficit disorder or depression in addition to the conduct disorder, medication may be required.

Not all children who are a bit unruly, who don't listen or who don't pay attention suffer from a disorder mentioned here. Being a child today is no easy task, and each child has his or her individual way of dealing with situations. Parenting today presents its challenges, too. It is important for a parent not to overlook a potential problem. Situations, especially prolonged or recurring, may indicate that there is more present than meets the eye.

Often, a child needs to discuss the problems or issues he or she is coping with as much as an adult does. Support groups are not designed to provide therapy or a solution to a child's problems. Rather, this group provides support, encouragement and feedback on issues facing children and their parents today.

Making your child's life completely happy and carefree isn't always a realistic thought. Especially since the pressures and issues facing today's child are different from those that you faced as a child. Not every child has one of the childhood disorders mentioned, but it would not be accurate to say that they don't exist. Perhaps the acknowledgement, understanding and treatment of these childhood disorders will help make the growing process of every child an easier one.

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