Children and young adolescents are faced with many developmental challenges that actually may be caused by a combination of factors, including environmental, genetic, physical, and other causes that may actually contribute to a child’s disability.  Although these are never planned, educators, families, doctors, researchers, and the whole community should  try to understand and look into the often multi-faceted ways in which childhood disorders can develop.  

  Let’s take a closer look into a few common disabilities and their possible causes, or roots, into how they may develop: 

1: Autism: Autism affects children’s verbal (spoken) and non-verbal communication skills, and children who have autism often struggle with receptive language, or what they understand, and expressive language skills, or how they express themselves.  

Autism is often apparent at a young age, and children who have autism have difficulties with verbally expressing themselves, as well as socializing with others. 

This disability can be caused by genetic factors, which means that a person’s biological makeup may be a key indicator, and autism can also be caused by certain environmental factors as well.  People who have autism may benefit from using alternative communication devices to help them communicate with others, since they may not be able to verbalize their responses.  This may include a picture chart, where picture icons are arranged in a logical manner, and the student points to the picture to communicate what they would like to do, or it may also include an electronic sound board for students to use to indicate the action they would like to make. Autism is one of many disabilities that can affect a child’s ability to communicate with others, but, with the right supports in place, a child can flourish due to the advancement of current educational technology that is now available to help children and other individuals prosper. 

2: Asperger’s Syndrome: This learning disorder is actually named after an Austrian doctor named Hans Asperger, who first discovered this particular learning disorder around 1945. 

People who have Asperger’s Syndrome often become very used to rituals, and may have a particular way of learning that has a very specific order and sequence, as they may not like disruptions of any kind with regards to their educational learning environment or day-to-day living. Children and young adolescents who have Asperger’s Syndrome may also have difficulties with interacting with others in a social environment, and are often secluded from others.  It also affects a child’s ability to not only engage in communication with others, such as making eye contact with other people, but it also affects their ability to understand facial expressions and movements or gestures made towards them.  They may also become very interested in a certain topic, such as having an obsession with dinosaurs.  It is also more common in males than females. 

There are some theories that suggest that Asperger’s Syndrome may be inherited from a  parent, so it may be genetic. Nevertheless, children who have Asperger’s Syndrome would benefit from having a set routine in place, and from learning how to effectively cope and deal with disruptions in their learning and living environments. 

3: Tourette Disorder (TD): This is a neurological disorder, which means that it affects the brain and the nerves of a child.  Children and young adolescents who have Tourette Disorder cannot control the vocal tics, which come from the mouth, or motor tics that affect their body.  Tourette Disorder is often evident in children at a young age, and children who suffer from this disorder often have uncontrollable body movements that affects their ability to properly learn and function in society.  It is important to note that this disorder does not mean that a child is not intelligent, and it does not affect how smart an individual is.  It should be noted that children who have this disorder may experience less vocal or motor tics while asleep, and that certain events can make tics worse, such as stress, an illness, or unexpected events that exacerbate the condition and make it worse. 

Counseling and support may be needed to help children overcome this neurological condition so that they can live productive lives. 

4: Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral Palsy affects the muscles of an individual and makes it difficult for them to physically execute certain tasks, such as holding a pencil, riding a bike, or eating food. Children who are born with cerebral palsy often have difficulty performing these basic tasks and may require support in the form of physical or occupational therapy to help them achieve their goals.  Children who have this disease often cannot control their muscles, and may have poor muscle strength and coordination.  They may also have  a sensitivity to lights and bright colors, so teaching supplies must be carefully evaluated. 

Although there are genetic factors that may contribute to a diagnosis, there are effective ways to help children who suffer from this disease of the body, such as understanding their physical strengths and weaknesses, and providing individualized support to children and individuals who suffer from this physical disability. 

5: Down Syndrome: This affects the cognitive brain and the skills that a child or individual is able to understand and process, and children and others who have down syndrome often have intellectual challenges, such as learning the differences between letters and numbers, tying their shoes, or other regular functions.  Children who have down syndrome often have very prominent physical characteristics as well, and may show sensitivity when forming personal relationships.  Down Syndrome is caused by a change in your body’s chromosomes which make up the body’s natural genetic makeup of how a person will look, and the characteristics they will have. Instructional methods that are self-paced and engages all of the senses, including sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing,  may be beneficial for students who are facing intellectual challenges due to this disorder. 

6: Dyslexia: The prefix, or beginning part, of this word is “dys,” which means that there is a dysfunction with an individual’s ability to understand lexicon, or the basics of language.  

 Children and others who have dyslexia often struggle to understand language, and this is where their dysfunction is most evident. Although dyslexia may be caused by genetics and be passed down from one family member to another, there are effective educational strategies that will help children and others to overcome this learning disability, which primarily affects the way the brain’s language centers store and process information. 

 Students who engage in hands-on, multi-sensory instructional methods, such as instruction in Orton-Gillingham teaching methods, often achieve success in overcoming this learning disability with proper support and guided instructional practices in place. 

7: Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia means that the child has a dysfunction in understanding graphemes, which are the written symbols of letters.  Children who have dysgraphia often struggle with writing tasks, and have a hard time composing not only letters, but also complete sentences and stories.  Children who suffer from dysgraphia often write using unintelligible language, and may have a hard time organizing their written work. 

Introducing a very structured and organized learning environment that gradually builds upon children’s writing skills and introduces concepts one at a time may benefit children and individuals who suffer from this dysfunction with regards to their written work. 

8:  Dyscalculia: This learning disability affects a child’s ability to calculate and perform mathematical operations.  Calculia is a latin term which means “to count,” and children who have dyscalculia often have a lot of anxiety when attempting to solve Math problems and everyday calculations.  Dyscalculia is caused by a disruption in the brain’s hemisphere that is used to process mathematical information, and children who have this disability may benefit from different ways of learning. One way is to engage students by using verbal and language communication, and having them write out a problem using words to help students process information more effectively. Also, students may benefit from writing a list and breaking down the steps of a Math problem in written form. Students must also be able to see the real-world applications of the mathematical problems they are trying to solve, as this will help them to make real connections with what they are learning and its real world applications, as is true for anyone! 

9: Other Health Impairments: This includes children who have special health needs, and also require special medical assistance while in school or at home.  This includes children who have asthma, ADHD, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fevers, sickle cell anemia, and Tourettes.

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