Behaviour Disorders, Where to Start

This article hopes to help those who want to know where to start if they feel their child has behaviour that may be construed as falling in the context of a disorder.

The idea that a child may have a behaviour disorder is a frightening consideration for any parent. Usually this will stem from either problematic behaviour at home, daycare or school, or will be due to comments made by family members, teachers, or other professionals. Terms such as autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, learning disorder, will be mentioned, often resulting in understandable parental anxiety.


What is a disorder ?

Behaviour disorder is also referred to as a child mental health disorder or neurodevelopmental disorder. It means that the problem affects the child at home, school and in most situations. The child has difficulties getting through the day. This is when compared to similar aged peers. Briefly these are the most common behaviour disorders.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder – refers to problems in the areas of communication, socialisation and managing behaviour. In addition there are often obsessions and restricted interests or behaviour.

Asperger’s Disorder – this represents normal acquired language skills but difficulty in non verbal communication, socialisation and again restricted patterns of behaviour and interests.

Attention Deficit (Hyperactivitiy) Disorder. – This represents problems with a concept called executive function. So organisational skills, impulse control, inhibitiion control, distractability are all affected that the child has trouble functioning at home and in the classroom setting.

Anxiety Disorder – anxiety represents worries and concerns that significantly affect the child’s function at home and school. For these worries are so disabling the child will have trouble coping in class, will appear constantly stressed and often provide significant behaviorial challenges at home. Some will worry about events at school home or on the news to the point they cannot sleep and these worries appear unreasonable.

Other disorders of childhood include Depressive disorder, attachment disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.

Up to 30% of children will have more than one disorder. For instance anxiety is often associated with Aspergers and ADHD. These are called comorbid disorders.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into great detail regarding the definitions, diagnosis and explanations as these are done more than adequately on other websites.

How do I know If my Child has a disorder ?

To keep this as simple as possible the following is a rough guide only and does not replace a detailed developmental and behaviourial history that only a paediatrican can obtain.

A behaviour disorder in a child will cause problems in all environments. This means the daycare or school have already been suggesting seeking help because of the problems the child is presenting. The exception to this is anxiety disorder. Often these children – “keep it together’ at school but then unleash at home. If the daycare/school feel that the child is functioning well at school – in all areas including education, socialisation, relationships and day to day function it is unlikely your child has a signifcant disorder.

The problematic behaviour has always been a part of the child. It is not a sudden new issue. If a previously happy healthy functioning child suddenly changes in behaviour then other causes need to be excluded. This can be due to relationship stressors with peers or family, bullying, or even abuse. Occassionally a medical cause can be found if there are other symptoms.

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