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All children develop at different rates and speed, some faster or slower than usual. And this is perfectly normal, even within the same family. However, there are some neurological disorders that can affect a child’s development in all areas, including motor, language, learning and cognition. Such neurological disorders can either affect the entire body system, or be focalized on the nervous system where most of the damage is noticed.
Some others can be inherited and reveal themselves only later in life, and finally some disorders can be acquired secondary to environmental exposure or trauma. Alternatively, neurological disorders in children can be classified based on the type of disorder, or based on their origin.
Types of Neurological Disorders in Children
Developmental Delay (Intellectual Disabilities)
A developmental delay can affect one (or more) of the 5 main areas of development: language or speech, vision, movement (motor skills), thinking (cognitive skills) and social skills. However, in some diseases more than one area is affected. Autism is a common disease that illustrates developmental delay in children. Children who are autistic have poor social skills and fail to display emotional connection with their peers and entourage. However, they are thought to have a good intellect, even though their main challenge is to express that intelligence. A similar but minor form of autism is Asperger Syndrome in which the features are less pronounced and the affected child is a little more socially immersed.
Though autism and Asperger Syndrome are caused of partial developmental delay, some other commonly encountered conditions can be held accountable for a more global developmental delay (which affects all the 5 areas of development). On top of the list, we have Down syndrome (Trisomy 21) which is caused by an extra-numerary chromosome at the 21st pair. We could also mention Fragile X syndrome which is an inherited disorder caused by a defect on the short arm of the X chromosome. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy) is also a common cause of global developmental delay with pronounced mental retardation. Children with this syndrome have particular facial features like smooth philtrum, thin upper lip, low nasal bridge, short palpebral fissures, flattened face and minor ear abnormalities. These are facies characteristic of this condition.
Movement disorders are a group of neurological disorders characterized by abnormalities in the quality, the speed, the timing and the synchronization of movements when they are executed. In children (and even in adults), it has been established by researchers that almost (if not) all movement disorders occur secondary to a defect or a lesion in the basal ganglia; which is the brain center responsible for movement execution and coordination. In adults for instance, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease stem from the basal ganglia.
For instance, there could have a case of a child suffering from dystonia which refers to sustained muscle contractions leading to abnormal posturing. Another common movement disorder is choreoathetosis (irregular movements with twisting and writing of the hands and feet). Children affected with strep throat or tonsillitis could also develop a condition called St Vitus Dance, which is a sequelae of the streptococcal infection affecting the basal ganglia.