Mind

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

This common neuro-behavioural disorder makes the affected children face many difficulties at school and home as the victims find it really hard to pay attention or focus on a single thing as they get easily distracted and act without thinking. Abnormal behaviour is evident in the preschool years as such children show symptoms of hyperactivity and inattentiveness besides having social phobia and anxiety.

There are three different types of ADHD—predominantly Inattentive Type includes those children who are unable to organize or finish a task and pay attention to details. They normally get easily distracted and find it difficult to accomplish routine daily tasks. Predominantly Hyperactive- Impulsive Type is diagnosed in children who talk excessively and find it hard to sit still for long. They feel extremely restless and act on impulse that is evident from actions like repeatedly interrupting others or speaking at inappropriate times. Combined Type includes those children who show symptoms of both the above two types, which severely impacts their learning ability.

Although the exact cause and risk factors for ADHD are not known, scientists believe that genes have an important role for this disorder to appear in children. Other possible factors may include brain injury and excessive use of alcohol and tobacco by the mother during pregnancy. Various viral infections like measles, varicella, rubella etc., during pregnancy, at birth, and in early childhood are also linked to an increased risk of developing ADHD.

As the symptoms of ADHD are similar to those of certain types of learning disabilities, clinical diagnosis of ADHD is not easy and it may be based largely on taking history of the child from parents and teachers. A combination of medicines, psychotherapeutic behavioural therapy, lifestyle changes, and counseling are a part of the treatment, which however, differs from child to child. Most cases, especially adolescents with ADHD, experience difficulties in social interaction and are at an increased risk of developing a substance abuse problem like misuse of alcohol and Cannabis Victims of ADHD may also suffer from mood disorder and anxiety disorder. Research on children with ADHD has shown a general reduction of brain volume, with higher reduction of the left prefrontal cortex.

Downs’s Syndrome

This genetic disorder is also known as ‘Trisomy 21’, which is caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is estimated that chromosome 21 contains 200 to 25 genes. This most common chromosome abnormality in human is associated with mental retardation and the victims have typical facial characteristics. As there is severe intellectual disability in such patients, pregnancies are often terminated if this disorder is detected in the growing fetus by prenatal screening.

Victims of Down’s syndrome show a delay in motor skills and speech, and also have an increased risk for developing epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. The occurrence of congenital heart disease and risk for dysfunction of thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) are also high in newborn babies with Down’s syndrome. There are several deficiencies related to gastrointestinal functioning besides reduced fertility prominent in such individuals. Eye disorders are quite common in persons suffering from Down’s syndrome, and particularly there are small white or grayish/brown spots on the periphery of the iris. Similarly, hearing impairments are also common in the victims. Notably, there is a high risk for a woman above age 45 of conceiving a baby with Down’s syndrome.

Dyslexia

This disorder signifies a learning disability in children that is marked by failure to attain the language skills of reading, writing, and spelling matching with their intellectual abilities. The severity of dyslexia could vary from mild to severe. The basic flaw lies in the brain’s ability to translate images/sensations received by the eyes or ears into understandable language. However, it does not result from vision or hearing problems.

In most cases, dyslexia goes undetected in the early grades of schooling. As the child begins to get more and more frustrated by the difficulty in learning to read or write, he/she may further suffer from depression, low self-esteem and have problems with peer and sibling interactions. This may soon translate into child’s dislike for school and other distressing behavioural problems.

There are several types of Dyslexia ‘Trauma Dyslexia’ occurs after some form of brain trauma or injury to the area of the brain that controls reading and writing. Another type is called ‘primary Dyslexia’ where the dysfunction occurs in cerebral cortex of the left side of the brain. Such children normally struggle with reading spelling, and writing in Primary school years. Occurring more often in boys, ‘Primary Dyslexia’ is believed to have a genetic basis as it runs in families. A third type of dyslexia is known as ‘Secondary or Developmental Dyslexia’ where hormones are supposed to play a role in early foetal development. The severity of this form, however, reduces as the child grows up.

In general, dyslexia may affect several different functions, such as ‘visual dyslexia’ where there is number and letter reversals and the inability to write symbols in the correct sequence; and ‘auditory dyslexia’ that involves difficulty with sounds of letters or groups of letters as they are perceived to be jumbled or not heard correctly. A clinical psychologist may help in diagnosing this disorder by reviewing how the child processes information from seeing, hearing and participating in various activities.

The interplay of genes and environmental factors is crucial for the development of most brain afflictions in the young. Genetic counseling can play an important role for couples, planning to have a baby, who have a victim of brain disorder in their families as with early prenatal testing the would-be parents can timely decide the abortion of the affected foetus. Moreover, for saving precious lives from such devastating illnesses marked by deficiencies in the organ that defines our superiority over other living beings, it is pertinent for pregnant women to take nutritious diet, and more importantly, they must stay away from stress, alcohol and tobacco!

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