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Your Child: It pays to spot a problem early.

Development problems

FAMILIES go through untold stress and worry when they discover their child has a developmental probelm.

But many can be treated in the child's early years and need not be a huge problem in adulthood.

The key to it all is spotting the symptoms early and being aware of the facts.

Above all, try not to lay blame on anyone and do not be embarrassed or ashamed to consult a professional.

Your children have arrived in the world this way so accept the situation and move forward - they will need you more than ever to build up their confidence.

Here we give a simple guide to five of the more common developmental problems among toddlers:


Autism is a neurological disorder that affects one in 1,000 children and affects the development of thought, perception and speech.

Autistic children cannot deal with complex stimuli - like those that come from another human being - so they withdraw further into themselves.

Common signs of autism are repetitive behaviours like spinning in circles, flailing the arms and rocking.

This is the way the child feels safe in a confusing world. There is no known cause for autism but an autistic child can be identified as early as two year. Very often however, it happens later.

The good news is that about 50 percent of children diagnosed between two and four years of age attend normal classes after having therapy. And ten per cent lead relatively normal adult lives. Treatment involves trying to find a way into the child's private world.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This disorder is pretty self-explanatory - your child can only concentrate in short bursts and becomes upset or unruly if asked to concentrate for longer periods.

It's more helpful to look on a child with ADHD as having a special temperament rather than seeing them as a problem child'.

Afterall, ADHD children tend to be highly creative and intelligent.

An ADHD child will be bored to tears in the classroom and will respond better to a more creative learning process.

You can help her by making yourself an ADHD expert and contacting support organisations; making sure her teacher understands the nature of ADHD and encouraging her involvement in sports and other activities that stimulate her creativity and channel her energy. Above all, try to halt the cycle of low self-esteem that often goes with ADHD.

Help is available from Sarah Salter on 01232-282-371 or Maeve Daly on 01-822-2059.


Dyslexia is a condition where children of average or above-average intelligence have extraordinary difficulties in learning to read.

There are a number of common characteristics common among dyslexics: unusual misspellings; the tendency to reverse letters and words, such as b for d; mirror writing, in which whole sentences are written backward; and sloppy handwriting, thought to be caused by an uncertain preference for left- or right-handedness.

Some sufferers have trouble following print from left to right or tend to jump from one line to another. Dyslexics may also have difficulties using grammar construction so they may have trouble understanding what they read. The underlying causes of dyslexia are still a mystery. But most experts now believe that the best way of helping dyslexic children is to provide them with individual tutoring programs as well as activities that enrich their vocabularies and enhance their awareness of language sounds.

Help and advice is available from the Dyslexia Association in Dublin on 01-679-0276 or in Belfast on 01232-654-670.


This is the most common speech disorder, and may be noticeable as soon as early as age two but sometimes develops with age.

Lispers have one of two distinct speech patterns: they make a ''th'' sound with their tongue between their teeth when trying to make an ''s'' or 'z'' sound.

Or the child's breath comes out of the side of his mouth instead of the middle as she tries to pronounce ''s'' or ''z', making a slushy sound.

Many lispers correct themselves by age four, but if your child is lisping beyond four, speech therapy is the next step.

Sometimes correction is simply a question of teaching the child the sensation of having her tongue stay back behind her two top front teeth.


Most children go through a period of time when their speech fluency is limited and sentences are filled with 'uhs'' and 'ums'.

This is nothing to worry about. But stuttering is different because it is an involuntary repetition or elongation of a word or part of a word.

A stutterer also displays other behaviour like head-bobbing or an inability to look you in the eye. Your child is stuttering if she is actually struggling with the words, trying to force them out.

Sometimes your child will only stutter in a stressful environment. Again, like so many of these conditions, there is no known cause for stuttering.

About five per cent of school-age children are likely to stutter at some point and of those and about 80 per cent stop their stuttering gradually over a matter of months. The rest will need speech therapy.

The best way to help your child show good speech habits yourself and to try to make her feel comfortable talking.

Make eye contact when you talk to your child, speak slowly, listen intently to your child and look for triggers.

You should not finish your child's sentences for her or try to hurry her along to the end of her sentences.

And avoid frequently correcting or criticising the way she talks or pronounces sounds.

If the stuttering gets worse despite your best efforts consult a speech therapist.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Weitz, Katy
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 13, 1999
Previous Article:Your Child: Dealing with those difficult questions.
Next Article:Your Child: Problems solved.

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