Risk Factors and Diagnosis of Behavioural Disorders in Children

Children are a precious gift to their parents, and their early years are critical for their development and learning. In their early years, they are even unable to communicate well, and it is the parents’ job to understand their children’s needs and fulfil them. So, when kids have behaviour issues, parents need to pay close attention and know what’s usual and unusual for their age. 

As you can guess, the subject of understanding behavioural disorders in children is not simple. To make it simple, here is a guide to help you comprehend the behavioural patterns of your child.

Behavioural disorders in children are complex conditions that can significantly impact a child’s well-being and development. These disorders encompass a range of challenges, including but not limited to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and various anxiety and mood disorders. Identifying and addressing these disorders in a timely manner is crucial for providing effective interventions and support.

Behavioural disorders in children are complex conditions

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Types of Behavioural Disorders in Children

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): 

    • This disorder is characterised by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children with ADHD may struggle to focus, follow instructions, and sit still. It can affect academic performance, social interactions, and overall functioning. Occurence of ADHD affect 1 in 20 children.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): 

    • Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD is characterised by defiant and disruptive behaviours, often involving anger, argumentativeness, and defiance towards authority figures. Children with ODD may have difficulty regulating their emotions and engaging in cooperative interactions. This may seem as erratic behaviour on the part of the child or negligence of the parents towards their child, however, if the instances of anger and defiance seems to get worse with age and socialisation of the child, parents must consider professional diagnosis. 

Conduct Disorder (CD): 

    • Conduct Disorder or OD involves a pattern of persistent behaviours that violate the rights of others or societal norms. These behaviours may include aggression, vandalism, theft, and deceit. Children with CD often have difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions. This may pose a lot of issues in their adult life which is why it must be addressed early on.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): 

    • ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder indicated by challenges in social communication and interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours. Children with ASD may have difficulty understanding social cues, forming relationships, and engaging in imaginative play. In recent years, social media and global cinema has successfully helped in gaining awareness of this condition. However, a proactive approach and open mindset from the family members and peers are a must for children with ASD. It is important to know that in the US, the latest occurence of ASD is 1 in 36 children.

Anxiety and Mood Disorders: 

    • These disorders include conditions like generalised anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and depression. Children with anxiety may experience excessive worry, fear, or nervousness, while those with mood disorders may exhibit persistent sadness, irritability, or changes in mood. All children get anxious, fearful and do not want to be away from their parents for long. This makes it difficult for parents to realise that their child’s behaviour is not typical and need professional support. It is important to understand that children with ADHD, ASD, ODD are also suffering from anxiety and it is important to acknowledge it with these children.
Risk Factors Contributing to Behavioural Disorders in Children

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Risk Factors Contributing to Behavioural Disorders in Children

Various risk factors can contribute to the development of behavioural disorders in children, often arising from a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and neurological influences.

Genetic and Hereditary Influences: 

Family history of behavioural disorders can increase the likelihood of a child developing similar conditions. Genetic factors play a role in shaping brain development and neurotransmitter function, which can influence behaviour.

Prenatal and Perinatal Factors: 

Experiences during pregnancy and childbirth can impact a child’s risk for behavioural disorders. Factors such as maternal stress, substance use, exposure to toxins, and complications during birth can contribute to the development of these disorders.

Environmental Factors: 

The child’s environment plays a significant role in their behavioural development.

Family Dynamics and Parenting Style: Unhealthy family dynamics, inconsistent discipline, and lack of positive role models can contribute to behavioural issues.

Socioeconomic Status: Limited access to resources, education, and healthcare can contribute to stressors that affect behaviour.

Exposure to Trauma or Violence: Children exposed to trauma, neglect, abuse, or violence are at higher risk for behavioural disorders due to the impact on their emotional and psychological well-being.

Neurobiological Factors: Brain structure and function can influence behaviour. Neurobiological factors such as imbalances in neurotransmitters, brain injury, or abnormalities in brain regions related to impulse control and emotional regulation can contribute to behavioural disorders.

Understanding these risk factors is essential for early intervention and prevention. Early identification and diagnosis of behavioural disorders are pivotal in providing the right support and interventions to enhance a child’s quality of life and future prospects. Through the combined efforts involving parents, teachers, medical professionals, and mental health experts, we can pave the way for a brighter future for children facing these challenges.

Neurobiological Factors: 

At the heart of behavioural expression lies the complexity of neural circuitry and biochemical signalling.

Neurotransmitter Imbalances: The delicate equilibrium of neurotransmitters, the messengers of the brain, can falter, leading to discordant behavioural symptoms. Dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters affect mood and impulse control, and imbalances can contribute to behavioural disorders in children.

Brain Structure and Function: The physiological design of the brain can influence behavioural patterns. Abnormalities in regions governing emotion regulation, decision-making, and impulse control can set up behaviours that deviate from the norm.

Neurodevelopmental Pathways: The process of neurodevelopment shapes how behaviour is shaped. Early neural wiring changes that may be brought on by hereditary or environmental factors can direct behaviour towards difficult trajectories.

Diagnosis Behaviour Disorder

If your child presents signs of Behavioural Disorders, check out this Listening Checklist.

Challenges in Diagnosis

Navigating the landscape of diagnosing behavioural disorders in children is not without its hurdles. Several challenges cast shadows on the path to correct identification and effective intervention:

Overlapping Symptoms and Co-Occurring Disorders: 

Behaviours often don’t neatly fit into distinct categories. Children may exhibit a mix of symptoms from various disorders, making it tricky to pinpoint the exact issue. Co-occurring disorders further complicate matters, as symptoms can blend together, making differentiation a puzzle.

Cultural and Diversity Considerations: 

Cultural norms and diverse backgrounds can influence behaviours. What’s deemed normal in one context might be seen as a problem in another. Sensitivity to cultural differences is vital to avoid misdiagnosis and ensure that behaviours are accurately interpreted.

Stigma Surrounding Mental Health: 

The stigma attached to mental health can be a significant barrier. Fear of judgement can prevent parents and caregivers from seeking help, delaying diagnosis and necessary support. Shattering this stigma is essential for open discussions and timely interventions.

Treatment and Intervention Strategies

When it comes to treatment, a variety of strategies take the spotlight:

Behavioural Therapy: 

Structured approaches like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) reshape behaviours and thought patterns. ABA employs positive reinforcement, while CBT focuses on altering negative cognitions.

Medication Management: 

In some cases, medications help balance brain chemistry, reducing disruptive behaviours. These medications, when prescribed and monitored by medical professionals, can be valuable tools.

Family-Based Interventions: 

Families become active participants in treatment. Family therapy equips parents with effective communication and discipline strategies, fostering a supportive home environment.

School-Based Support Programs: 

Collaborative efforts with schools yield individualised plans and behavioural interventions, creating an inclusive and accommodating educational setting.

The Tomatis® Method

The Tomatis® Method introduces an intriguing intervention by using sound to influence behaviour. In a session, the child listens to specially designed sounds through unique headphones. These sounds are electronically modified to stimulate specific auditory pathways, potentially enhancing sensory processing and emotional regulation.

Reports suggest that following one intensive program of 14 daysof the Tomatis® Method, children might experience improved auditory awareness, heightened focus, and better emotional control. While results vary, this initial impact can lay the foundation for further progress. However, note that sustained and consistent use over multiple sessions is likely necessary for long-term effectiveness.

Holistic Approach to Management

Recognising that children’s well-being extends beyond isolated behavioural challenges, a holistic approach to management comes to the forefront:

Incorporating Nutrition, Sleep  and Exercise: 

Good sleep pattern, proper nutrition and physical activity contribute to balanced brain function and emotional well-being. A diet rich in essential nutrients supports cognitive development, while regular exercise promotes healthy neurotransmitter production and stress reduction.

Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction Techniques: 

Teaching children mindfulness fosters emotional regulation and resilience. Mindful practices help children manage stress, anxiety, and impulsivity, enhancing their capacity for adaptive behaviours.

Supportive Services for Families: 

Equipping families with knowledge and skills empowers them to navigate the journey alongside their children. Parent education, counselling, and support groups offer a safety net, ensuring families are well-prepared to handle challenges.

Creating Inclusive and Supportive Environments: 

Schools, communities, and social circles play vital roles in a child’s life. Creating inclusive environments reduces stigma and fosters empathy, allowing children to thrive without fear of judgement.

Long-Term Outlook and Prognosis

A child’s journey through behavioural disorders doesn’t end with diagnosis. Understanding the long-term trajectory is essential:

Impact on Academic Performance and Social Functioning: 

Behavioural disorders can influence academic achievements and social interactions. Early interventions and ongoing support improve these outcomes, allowing children to engage in school and build relationships.

Transitioning into Adolescence and Adulthood: 

Many children with behavioural disorders continue to face challenges as they transition into adolescence and adulthood. Building on early interventions, tailored strategies help them navigate new stages of life with resilience.

Success Stories and Positive Outcomes: 

With the right interventions and support, children can achieve remarkable progress. Success stories highlight the transformative power of early diagnosis, effective interventions, and the unwavering dedication of families and professionals.

Childhood behavioural disorders present unique challenges that arise from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Successfully navigating these complications requires a multifaceted approach that includes cultural sensitivity, dispelling stigma, and precise diagnosis. By implementing diverse interventions such as therapies and family support, tailored solutions can be provided to address the specific needs of each child. This is where the Tomatis®  Method comes in. 

The Tomatis®  Method

The Tomatis® Method presents a transformative solution for children with behavioural disorders. By utilising sound therapy, this innovative approach aims to enhance sensory processing, emotional regulation, and cognitive growth. Through personalised auditory stimulation, it holds the potential to improve social interactions, boost academic performance, and contribute to overall well-being. Schedule a free 20 minute consultation with our expert to gain more clarity on how we can help your child function better and manage his/her symptoms successfully. Click here to book a consultation today.

Françoise Nicoloff

Official Representative of Tomatis Developpement SA in Australia, Asia and South Pacific, Director of the Australian Tomatis® Method, Registered Psychologist, Certified Tomatis® Consultant Senior, Tomatis® International Trainer and Speaker, Co-author of the Listening Journey Series, 40 Years of Experience, Neurodiversity Speaker

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