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Neurodevelopmental Disorders

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Neurodevelopmental Disorders

In the book Rules by Cynthia Lord (2006), 12-year-old Catherine lives with her parents and little brother. Catherine wants to live a “normal” life, but Catherine’s younger brother, David, has autism. Ever since his diagnosis, Catherine has been giving David rules to follow so that he can be "normal." Soon Catherine learns that her "normal" is different from David’s "normal." David prefers to be by himself because he finds it hard to talk to others and form close relationships.

  • What are neurodevelopmental disorders in psychology?
  • What are examples of neurodevelopmental disorders?
  • What are the symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders?
  • What are the causes of neurodevelopmental disorders?

Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Psychology

Have you ever met someone with a neurodevelopmental disorder (ND), like autism or an intellectual disability, but you were unsure what that means or how it changes their life? The developmental part of neurodevelopmental refers to human growth and how we change throughout life. Most neurodevelopmental disorders develop during infancy or early childhood. Some are even present before birth. Sometimes adults are diagnosed later in life, but this is less common.

The neuro- part of neurodevelopmental refers to genetics and neurobiology. These disorders are connected to problems in brain function or structure.

Neurodevelopmental disorders, a doctor pointing at brain scans, StudySmarterBrain scans, pexels.com

Neurodevelopmental disorders affect many areas of life: social, intellectual/learning, communication, motor, behavioral, and daily functioning. Not all people with an ND struggle in all of these areas, but they struggle to some degree in at least 2 or more of them.

  • Social: Those with autism and intellectual disabilities find it hard to build a meaningful social life because they struggle to form close relationships and communicate well with others. Treatments like speech therapy and assistive technology can help with this area of functioning.

  • Intellectual/Learning: Those with ADHD find it hard to focus in school because they get easily distracted and their attention is directed elsewhere. Intellectual struggles are more severe for those with intellectual disabilities who may struggle to learn at all; their brains simply are unable to retain and apply information.

  • Motor Functions: Issues in brain function or structure can cause issues using certain body parts. Someone with an intellectual disability may have a limp hand, for example. Research shows that babies with autism tend to either crawl later or learn to crawl incorrectly.

  • Behavioral: You may automatically think of autism when you think about behavioral challenges. There are specific therapies aimed at helping those with autism improve their behavioral functioning, including treatments like Applied Behavior Analysis. Those with an ND may say or do inappropriate things at inappropriate times or respond to the behavior of others in unusual ways.

  • Daily Functioning: In healthcare, there is a special term for the skills that we use to function every day: Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These are essential skills like eating, bathing, and walking. They include things like getting dressed, brushing your teeth, and going to the bathroom. Someone with an ND may require help with some or all of these things.

Examples of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

There are seven types of neurodevelopmental disorders:

  1. Tic Disorders

  2. Specific Learning Disorders

  3. Motor Disorders

  4. Communication Disorders

  5. Intellectual Developmental Disorder (also known as Intellectual Disabilities)

  6. Autism Spectrum Disorder

  7. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The three most common NDs are Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and Intellectual Disabilities. These are the three you will need to know about for your exam!

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that produces challenges in social settings, behavior regulation, and communication. These challenges usually require the help of others to overcome, but many individuals diagnosed with ASD can live a fairly normal life and become independent. You may not be able to tell that someone has ASD just by watching them. Testing and proper diagnosis are important.

Some individuals with ASD are naturally gifted. Keep in mind, though, that ASD and giftedness are two separate attributes; not everyone gifted has ASD and vice versa. Even so, sometimes an individual's ASD is completely overlooked because of the person's giftedness.

Intellectual giftedness means that someone has an IQ score of 130 or higher and demonstrates exceptional cognitive abilities. Giftedness is rare: less than 3% of the entire population. Those with an IQ score of 110 - 129 are considered above average or "bright."

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes difficulties in focusing, restlessness, and impulsivity. Those diagnosed with ADHD may also have a learning or communication disorder. ADHD requires proper assessment and diagnosis. While many are diagnosed early in life, late diagnoses are more common with ADHD. This disorder is sometimes overlooked in children since many of the symptoms are pretty common among children in general (i.e., hyperactivity and being easily distracted).

There are 3 subtypes of ADHD:

  1. Mainly Inattentive Type (previously ADD)

  2. Mainly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type

  3. Joint Type (also known as Combined Type)

Intellectual Developmental Disorder

Intellectual Developmental Disorders (IDD) or Intellectual Disabilities are neurodevelopmental disorders that create challenges in social functioning, daily life tasks, and cognitive skills. People with an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) score of 70 or lower are more likely to meet the criteria for an intellectual disability. Those with IDD have a hard time learning, solving problems, communicating with others, and using skills needed for everyday living. They may need daily help for most or all of their life. IDD also requires a clinical assessment and diagnosis. The clinician may use an IQ test to help figure out if the individual has an IDD.

Symptoms of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

There are many possible symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders. The symptoms someone experiences depend heavily on the type of disorder. Symptoms of ASD are very different from ADHD and IDD. Symptoms also depend on the severity of the disorder. Someone with a mild ASD will function very differently from someone with a severe ASD. Every person with an ND is a unique individual with unique struggles.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Symptoms of ASD

Intense discomfort in social situations

Difficulty communicating

Limited social awareness and skills

Repeating or mimicking words

Preference for rigid routines and predictability

Difficulty adjusting to changes in routine

Repetition of behaviors or motor movements

As mentioned earlier, NDs have different severity levels: mild, moderate, or severe. This means that two people with autism may have very different symptoms, and the disorder may affect their lives in very different ways. One common symptom of ASD is struggling with communication. Those with a mild ASD experience less trouble communicating than those with a severe ASD, who may exhibit slurred or incomprehensible speech.

Other symptoms of ASD include intense discomfort in social situations and a preference or need for strict routines. People with ASD can get easily overwhelmed by their environment if it is too noisy or crowded. This overstimulation causes them to feel uncomfortable or exhausted, and they may need to leave and go to a different environment with less stimulation.

People with ASD also prefer following a daily routine to provide some emotional stability and predictability to their lives. Knowing what will happen next or what they need to do helps them feel less anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. Changes in a routine for someone with ASD can be incredibly upsetting and difficult to manage.

Neurodevelopmental disorders, a boy sitting it a desk in front of a blackboard with his school schedule written on it representing his routine, StudySmarterRoutines, pexels.com

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Symptoms for any disorder differ from one person to another, but ADHD symptoms also depend on the type. The first type of ADHD is called mainly inattentive (previously called Attention-Deficit Disorder). The symptoms of this type all have to do with inattentiveness: difficulty focusing in school and daily life.

The second type of ADHD is called mainly hyperactive/impulsive. All of the symptoms have to do with being highly active and impulsive. The last type of ADHD is just a combination of the other two types into one. The symptoms are a mix of the other two types.

Symptoms
Inattentive Type
Hyperactive/Impulsive Type
Joint Type
Difficulty focusing in school and daily life
X
X
Tendency to "check out"
X
X
Habitually forgetful
X
X
Habitually losing items
X
X
Inability to sit still or restlessness
X
X
Constant fidgeting or squirming
X
X
Highly active
X
X
Excessive impatience
X
X

Treatments for Autism and ADHD

As of right now, there is no cure for ASD. Therapy is one of the most common treatments. There are many different types of therapy, but there are specific types that work best for treating ASD. Some of these are Applied Behavior Analysis, family therapy, and speech/language therapy.

Family therapy can help support families that include a member with ASD. The family can learn what to expect based on the diagnosis and process the unique challenges of ASD. Speech/language therapy can help with speech and language problems caused by ASD and may last for years.

Treatment for ADHD often takes the form of behavioral therapy and medication. Behavioral therapy helps individuals learn to manage their inattentiveness or hyperactivity so that they can focus and behave appropriately in certain settings like school. Adderall is a common medication for ADHD. It is a stimulant and works by increasing brain activation in areas that control attention and impulsivity.

Causes of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

There are many possible causes of NDs, and clinicians are unsure what causes some of these disorders. More research is needed on possible causes. Genetics is a possibility, and specific genes are linked to specific symptoms of intellectual disabilities. Most neurodevelopmental disorders have many potential causes, though, rather than genetics alone.

Researchers emphasize that NDs usually result from a blend of genetic, biological, psychosocial, and environmental risk factors. Environmental risk factors include maternal alcohol consumption while pregnant, maternal drug use while pregnant, financial status, lack of resources, a premature birth (before 9 months), and prenatal or childhood exposure to environmental toxins like mercury and lead.

Neurodevelopmental disorders, barrels with toxic materials in a dump, StudySmarterToxins, pexels.com

Neurodevelopmental Disorders - Key Takeaways

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders affect the following areas of life: social, intellectual/learning, communication, motor, behavioral, and daily functioning.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes challenges in social settings, behavior regulation, and communication.

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes difficulties in focusing, restlessness, and impulsivity.

  • There are 3 subtypes of ADHD:

    • Mainly Inattentive Type (previously ADD)

    • Mainly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type

    • Joint Type

  • Intellectual Developmental Disorders (IDD) or Intellectual Disabilities are neurodevelopmental disorders that create challenges in social functioning, daily life tasks, and cognitive skills.

Frequently Asked Questions about Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Yes, Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

A neurodevelopmental disorder is a disorder that usually develops early in life and impacts the following areas: social, intellectual/learning, communication, motor, behavioral, and daily functioning. 

Examples of neurodevelopmental disorders include Intellectual Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Neurodevelopmental disorders are caused by many things: genetics, premature birth, environmental toxins, and prenatal exposure to alcohol.

The most common neurodevelopmental disorder is ADHD.

Final Neurodevelopmental Disorders Quiz

Question

What therapy is most often used to help those diagnosed with ADHD?

Show answer

Answer

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy 

Show question

Question

There are three presentation types of ADHD.

1. Hyperactive-impulsive presentation type

2. _________________

3. Combined Presenation Type 

Show answer

Answer

2. Predominately inattentive presentation type

Show question

Question

What is not a speculated cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

Show answer

Answer

Genetics

Show question

Question

What are three symtpoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness?


Show answer

Answer

Overly talkative

Fidgeting or squirming

Inability to concentrate on tasks

Trouble taking turns with activities

Show question

Question

What are three symptoms of inattentiveness?

Show answer

Answer

Short attention span

Easily distracted

Constantly changing task or activity

Losing things or forgetful

Daydreaming a lot

Show question

Question

ADHD is considered a __________ disorder. 

Show answer

Answer

neurodevelopmental 

Show question

Question

True or False: Adults suffer from ADHD

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

​True or False: There is no one specific test for ADHD. Rather, there are tests that can be used to rule out the diagnoses. 


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What are two common medications that are used to help adults diagnosed with ADHD?


A. Methylphenidate and Guanfacine

B. Acetametaphine and Adderall 

C. Fluticasone and Pregabalin

Show answer

Answer

A. Methylphenidate and Guanfacine

Show question

Question

What are the two categories for which symptoms of ADHD fall under?

Show answer

Answer

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness and Symptoms of Inattentiveness

Show question

Question

True or False: Medications for ADHD are cures to the diagnoses.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Medications used for ADHD are either composed of __________ and non-stimulants

Show answer

Answer

Stimulants

Show question

Question

______ medications are most commonly used for ADHD symptoms.


A.Stimulant

B. Non-stimulant 

Show answer

Answer

A. Stimulant 

Show question

Question

_______ medications used for ADHD are fast-acting but are able to last up to 24 hours.


A.Stimulant

B. Non-Stimulant 


Show answer

Answer

B. Non-Stimulant 

Show question

Question

_____ and ____ tests are most often used to help rule out ADHD diagnoses. 


A. Reflex and Hearing

B. Vision and Hearing 

C. Vision and Spelling

Show answer

Answer

B. Vision and Hearing 

Show question

Question

When is an intellectual disability most often diagnosed?

Show answer

Answer

In early childhood.

Show question

Question

What are early signs or symptoms that a child may have an intellectual disability?

Show answer

Answer

Difficulty remembering

Late speech development

Problems understanding social rules or consequences of actions 

Show question

Question

What test(s) are used in order to help diagnose an intellectual disability?

Show answer

Answer

IQ tests are administered 

Show question

Question

What is the IQ level with "borderline" intellectual disability levels?

Show answer

Answer

IQ level 70-84

Show question

Question

What is the IQ level with "Mild" intellectual disability levels?

Show answer

Answer

IQ level 50-70

Show question

Question

What is the IQ level with "moderate" intellectual disability levels?

Show answer

Answer

IQ level 35-50

Show question

Question

What is the IQ level with "severe" intellectual disability levels?


Show answer

Answer

IQ level 20-35

Show question

Question

What is the IQ level with "profound" intellectual disability levels?


Show answer

Answer

IQ level below 20

Show question

Question

Are intellectual disabilities more prevalent in males or females?


Show answer

Answer

Males 

Show question

Question

ADHD is considered an intellectual disability. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. It is, however, often a comorbid diagnosis to an intellectual disability.

Show question

Question

Autism is considered an intellectual disability. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. It is, however, often a comorbid diagnosis to an intellectual disability.

Show question

Question

What is the most commonly known inherited form of intellectual disability?


Show answer

Answer

Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)

Show question

Question


What are the three most common forms of intellectual disability?

Show answer

Answer

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). 

22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2 DS). 

Fragile X syndrome (FXS).

Show question

Question

In older children, what are common symptoms that may identify an intellectual disability?


Show answer

Answer

Difficulties with planning, reasoning, and judgement. 

Show question

Question


An example of an intellectual disability is:

A. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

B. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

C. Dyslexia 

Show answer

Answer

B. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

Show question

Question

What causes neurodevelopmental disorders?  


Show answer

Answer

Neurodevelopmental disorders are caused by many things: genetics, premature birth, environmental containments (e.g. lead), and exposure to alcohol (i.e. the mother drank alcohol while pregnant). 

Show question

Question

What is a neurodevelopmental disorder?  


Show answer

Answer

Neurodevelopmental disorders are a set of ailments that impact the following areas: social, intellectual/learning, communication, motor, behavioral, and daily functioning. These disorders are usually exhibited early on, meaning in childhood and adolescence, but late diagnoses do occur, so adults can also be diagnosed.   

Show question

Question

The 7 categories of Neurodevelopmental Disorders are:  

Show answer

Answer

  1. Tic Disorders
  2. Specific Learning Disorders 
  3. Motor Disorders 
  4. Communication Disorders
  5. Intellectual Disabilities 
  6. Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  7. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder  

Show question

Question

What is ASD? (Autism Spectrum Disorders)

Show answer

Answer

A neurodevelopmental disorder that causes the person diagnosed to have challenges in the following areas: social, behavioral, and communication. 

Show question

Question

Diagnoses of ASD include: 

Show answer

Answer

  • Asperger Syndrome 
  • Autistic Disorder 
  • (PDD - NOS) Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified

Show question

Question

What is Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?


Show answer

Answer

 A neurodevelopmental disorder that causes the person diagnosed to have difficulty focusing, an inability to stay still, and acting on impulse. 

Show question

Question

The three types of ADHD are: 

Show answer

Answer

  1. Inattentive Type 
  2. Hyperactive/Impulsive Type
  3. Combined Type

Show question

Question

What are intellectual disabilities?  


Show answer

Answer

They are neurodevelopmental disorders that cause the person diagnosed to have challenges in the following areas: social, cognition, and practical skills.   

Show question

Question

Give some symptoms of ASD: 

Show answer

Answer

  • Displaying an uncomfortableness in social situations 
  • Having a hard time communicating 
  •  Repeating words and mimicking words (but they were not asked to)
  • Not exhibiting social awareness
  • Disassociation of the world around them 
  • Preferring a strict routine 
  • Having a hard time adjusting when their routine is disrupted 
  • Repetition of the same actions

Show question

Question

Symptoms for the Inattentive Type of ADHD? 

Show answer

Answer

  • Having a hard time staying focused in school and daily life 
  • Disassociating with one's surrounding 
  • Is overly disorganized 
  • Forgetting simple or everyday tasks 
  • Has a habit of losing items 
  • Avoids/dislikes tasks that require a lot of mental work

Show question

Question

Symptoms for the Hyperactive/Impulsive Type: 

Show answer

Answer

  • An inability to sit still 
  • Constant fidgeting and/or squirming 
  • Talkative 
  • Very active 
  • Is impatient 
  • Cannot do leisure activities quietly

Show question

Question

What IQ score is a big indicator for Intellectual Disabilities? 

Show answer

Answer

An IQ score of 70 or lower 

Show question

Question

What type of disorder is Autism Spectrum Disorder Classified as?

Show answer

Answer

Autism Spectrum Disorder is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Show question

Question

When do symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) first appear?

Show answer

Answer

Symptoms of ASD first appear during childhood. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following are believed to cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder? 


Show answer

Answer

Genetic Mutations. 

Show question

Question

Exposure to which of the following elements are believed to increase the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Show answer

Answer

Mercury 

Show question

Question

Which of the following are symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?


Show answer

Answer

Disorganized Speech

Show question

Question

How is Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosed? 

Show answer

Answer

Blood Test 

Show question

Question

What is the best treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder?


Show answer

Answer

Therapy 

Show question

Question

What class of medications have been FDA-approved to treat symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Show answer

Answer

Antipsychotics 

Show question

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