What are developmental disabilities?
are birth defects related to a problem with how a body part
or body system works. They may also be known as functional
birth defects. Many of these conditions affect multiple body
parts or systems.
What are the different types of developmental disabilities?
These are birth defects that affect the functioning of the
brain, spinal cord, and nervous system, which can impact
intelligence and learning. These conditions can also cause
problems such as behavioral disorders, speech or language
difficulties, convulsions, and movement disorders. Some of
the common nervous system disabilities include:
Mental retardation - The term mental retardation describes a certain range of
scores on an IQ (intelligence quotient) test. Mental retardation
can result from a number of different conditions, including
(but not limited to):
Down syndrome - a set of mental and
physical characteristics related to having an extra copy
of Chromosome 21.
syndrome- the most
common inherited form of mental retardation caused by a
defect in a specific part of the Fragile X Mental Retardation-1
gene that causes the body to produce low amounts or none
of a certain protein. Without the protein, the brain doesn’t
Spectrum Disorders - a range of problems that can affect
a person's communication skills, social skills, and intelligence.
Because autism is diagnosed on a spectrum, people with this
condition can have mild symptoms or severe symptoms; but
they all have a type of autism.
Sensory-related problems are often a key part of complex
birth defect patterns. For instance:
Children with congenital rubella are likely to be deaf,
and to develop cataracts of the eyes.
Children with Williams syndrome have trouble seeing spatial
relationships between objects around them.
Those with Fragile
X syndrome are often very sensitive to loud noises; they
may overreact or have outbursts in reaction to such sounds.
This group of functional birth defects affects a person's
metabolism, which is the way the body builds up, breaks down,
and otherwise processes the materials it needs to function.
For example, how your body breaks down sugar to create energy
is a metabolic process. Two commonly known metabolic disorders
(PKU) - a condition in which a problem with
a specific enzyme, a protein that speeds up certain chemical
reactions, causes mental retardation.
Hypothyroidism - a hormonal condition that, if left untreated
in an infant, can cause mental retardation.
Some infants born with degenerative disorders appear normal
at birth, but then lose abilities or functions due to the
in condition. In these cases, the defect is usually not detected
until an older age, when the child or person starts to show
signs of loss of function. Some degenerative disorders are
the result of metabolic disorders.
Degenerative disorders can cause physical, mental, and sensory
problems, depending on the specific defect. Rett syndrome
is an example of a degenerative birth defect. This disorder,
which usually affects girls, is most often caused by a specific
What are the treatments for developmental disabilities?
developmental disabilities have no cure, but there are often
ways to treat the symptoms. For example:
Children with Down
syndrome can often benefit from speech therapy, occupational
therapy, and exercises for gross and fine motor skills. They
might also be helped by special education and attention at
school. Surgery can also help correct heart defects.
People with Fragile X syndrome can
get help to reduce or eliminate some of the learning, physical,
social and emotional, speech and language, and sensory problems
common in Fragile X. The sooner those with Fragile X get
help, the more they can learn and the better their outcomes.
There are a variety of treatment
options to help with the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders.
This may include behavioral, occupational, physical, and
speech-language therapy. In addition, educational specialists
can help guide the child’s
Girls with Rett syndrome can be treated
for some of the problems associated with the condition. These
treatments generally aim to slow the loss of abilities, improve
or preserve movement, and encourage communication and social
contact. Treatments may include help from physical therapists,
occupational therapists, and speech-language therapists.
Other options, such as medication or surgery are also effective
for treating some of the symptoms of Rett syndrome.
Treatment for hypothyroidism, or
underactive thyroid, includes daily oral hormone treatment.
The most effective treatment for PKU is a special diet that
carefully limits the protein phenylalanine (Phe). People
with PKU who are on this diet from birth or shortly thereafter
develop normally and usually have no symptoms of PKU.