Six most common Developmental Disabilities in U.S. healthcare

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Written by Haleigh In many cases, these increases have stemmed from better identification of developmental issues in children from birth to the age of...

Written by Haleigh


In many cases, these increases have stemmed from better identification of developmental issues in children from birth to the age of 5. Additionally, when Congress reauthorized IDEA in 2004, it expanded the act to include services to developmentally delayed children between the ages of 3 and 9.

Developmental disabilities information by statedemonstrates that different states are more effective than others at diagnosing and intervening when children have developmental disorders. However, nationwide statistics show that U.S. special education teachers most often address six primary disabilities: learning disabilities, ADHD, speech disorders, intellectual disabilities, seizures and autism.

Although other disabilities receive a great deal of national attention, learning disabilities (LD) remain the most common challenge faced by special education teachers. According to the CDC, LD affects 7.66 percent of U.S. students, and the prevalence of learning disabilities has increased by 5.5 percent within the last decade. Kids with LD demonstrate average or above-average intelligence, but they struggle to receive, process, store and communicate information. Four common learning disabilities include:

·         Dyslexia. Students with dyslexia struggle to process language and may demonstrate problems with reading, writing and spelling.

·         Dyscalculia.Dyscalculia is a disability related to math skills, and it affects students' abilities to remember math facts, perform computations and conceptualize both time and money.

·         Dysgraphia.Students with dysgraphia struggle with handwriting, composition and spelling. Their handwriting is often illegible, and they struggle to organize ideas for writing into sentence and paragraph forms.

·         Dyspraxia.Dyspraxia involves difficulties with fine motor skills, coordination and manual dexterity. Kids with dyspraxia may struggle with skills like drawing, buttoning their clothes or cutting with scissors.

ADHD affects about 6.69 percent of students, and its prevalence has increased 33 percent over the past decade. The disorder disproportionately affects male students and may be caused by genetics or brain injury. It's also associated with prenatal issues, such as alcohol use during pregnancy or exposure to lead before birth. Most parents and educators notice these signs in kids starting between the ages of 3 and 6:

·         Constant movement and fidgeting.

·         Nonstop talking and difficulty with quiet activities.

·         Impulsivity.

·         Temper outbursts.

·         Difficulty taking turns or playing games that require order.

·         Disorganization and slow information processing.

·         Daydreaming and frequent boredom.

Speech disorders, which affect about 1.6 percent of students, fall into three main categories:

·         Disfluency. Students with disfluency repeat sounds, words and phrases. Stuttering is the most common speech disfluency.

·         Articulation disorders.Articulation disorders include mispronunciation of certain sounds, such as substituting an "L" consonant sound with a "W" consonant sound. They may be caused by structural abnormalities related to the mouth and teeth or by damage to the brain's speech centers.

·         Voice disorders.Students with voice disorders may speak in either a raspy or hoarse tone, display sudden changes in voice pitch or run out of air before they can finish a sentence. Problems can result from physiological structural abnormalities, like vocal cord defects, or disorders including gastric reflux.

Students with intellectual disabilities have limitations in mental functioning. They often struggle with skills like communication, social skills and self-care. Intellectual disabilities result from genetic abnormalities, health problems or problems related to pregnancy and birth. These disorders affect 0.71 percent of students.

Seizures can cause significant academic impairment. Often, they affect a student's ability to concentrate and to remember facts, particularly when seizures are characterized by periods of fixed staring. Students with seizures often need support from school nurses for seizure management and medication administration.

Although autismaffects only 0.47 percent of students, its prevalence has increased by 289.5 percent over the past 10 years. Students with autism struggle to communicate with others, and they often display repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. They may feel overwhelmed by sensory input, meaning that touch, loud noises and bright lights can cause significant emotional distress. Autism may cluster in families because of specific genetic mutations and how those mutations interact with other biological and environmental factors. However, more research needs to be done to determine both why autism develops and why it's becoming more common.


Classroom image by Old Shoe Woman from Flickr’s Creative Commons



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