People often use these blanket terms like “special needs” without really thinking about what they are. For example, we might shop online for fun and educational toys for children with special needs, but how can we be sure that we’re getting the right kind of thing unless we know more about what commonly impacts these children?
Below are the most common conditions that fall under the umbrella category of “special needs.”
ADHD is a common acronym thrown around by parents and others, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The more well-known symptoms of ADHD are the inability or real struggle to pay attention, as well as impulsiveness and hyperactivity. Further symptoms of it are children who fail to spot detail, have trouble staying focused on a single task, forget to do daily activities and also are prone to losing things.
ADHD manifests itself into a huge range of behaviour, and can appear in children from as young as just 3 years of age, but not in most children. For many, the symptoms become most clear when the child reaches the age of about 12. How to deal with ADHD effectively is the subject of many a fervent debate, with some supporting the use of drugs like Ritalin, and others strongly advocating for a drug-free approach.
This is a neurological problem that is often the result of certain illnesses or brain damage. In children, apraxia of speech is one of the most common examples of how it manifests, with children struggling to sound out words as their brains fail to send the proper signals to the jaw, tongue and other parts of the body related to speech.
Apraxia of any kind can be daunting for parents, but it can be helped through the use of special games, as well as other mental and physical therapies designed to stimulate greater development to help sufferers “catch up” to their peers.
3. Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities
Dyslexia is more common than people think, typically affecting about 1 in 10 Australians. It’s one of several common learning disabilities, and probably one that most have heard of already. It impacts a child’s language-based processing skills, making it very challenging for them to read fluently.
Other common learning disorders include dyscalculia, which is similar to dyslexia but for numbers, as well as dysgraphia (difficulty mastering fine motor skills), auditory processing disorder (inability to hear differences between sounds), and visual processing disorder (inability to interpret visual information.
4. Selective Mutism
This is a problem that impacts children’s ability to speak in certain situations. It’s often the most missed disorder as many parents simply see such a problem as their child being “difficult” or “stubborn.” One might expect that when we have such a jokey attitude to “selective hearing” of the elderly, for example.
The reality is that selective mutism can badly affect daily life, and can sometimes see children going quiet for weeks or even months. It could be that the child only talks to one person in the family, but no one else, for instance, which makes going to school pretty challenging. Symptoms include children freezing up, looking and feeling very tense, perhaps trembling and blushing when in a situation when they are meant to speak.
Finally, we come to autism and the related spectrum of conditions. To be “on the spectrum” can worry so many parents, especially when there is such a wide range of possible symptoms and effects of autism and other conditions on children. It can have impacts on children’s entire lives, and what’s even more stressing about autism and related problems on the spectrum is how little we really understand how they come about and how best to handle them.