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Neurodevelopmental disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders occur during the development period of birth to age 18. They can result from genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome, problems during pregnancy, problems during birth, and health problems such as meningitis, measles, cerebral palsy, or whooping cough. Exposure to environmental toxins like lead and mercury can also cause developmental problems People with developmental disabilities may not have an intellectual disability and many people with intellectual disabilities do not meet the criteria for having a developmental disability.

Testing gifted children and adolescents

Gifted children may not always be easily identifiable. Sometimes, their intelligence leads them to be unmotivated in school because they are bored. Gifted children are often more emotionally sensitive than other children, which can show up as behavior problems or social anxiety.

Scoring high (above 115) on IQ tests in one measure of giftedness in children, but not the only one. Gifted children may have unique talents that are not easily measured by IQ tests. Even at a young age, gifted children can display more intense curiosity than other children; their constant questioning of teachers may be misread as a refusal to respect authority. Gifted children often have vivid and unusual imaginations, which can land them in trouble.

We test children and even teens for "giftedness," so parents can advocate for them and obtain the necessary opportunities that will help them thrive. We also help these children deal with being "different," so they can have a positive emotional foundation for flourishing.
Gifted children and learning disabilities
It is surprising to many, but gifted children can also have learning disabilities. Most fall through the cracks in the school system. These children can include underachievers who are assumed to be "lazy" or "unmotivated," when an unrecognized learning disability is the true culprit. A second group is children who are identified as having learning problems but not recognized as having superior intellect or talents; this may be as much as one-third of children identified as learning disabled in the school system. The largest group of unserved students are those whose disabilities mask their gifts, even though they seem to function at the appropriate grade level.
Gifted children and mental illness
Giftedness is not necessarily correlated with mental health issues, but some children have special abilities and special challenges. They may have very advanced vocabulary, ideas, and creativity – yet lack impulse control, mood regulation, and social skills. These children are often disruptive and fail to finish assignments because they are easily distracted. Of course, the actual behavior depends on the illness and the child. But if a child seems unusually bright yet is failing to perform in school, we can help you understand what is going on and how to deal with it.

Types of neurodevelopmental disorders


Neurodevelopmental disorders are characterized by delays or difficulties in the acquisition of motor, social, language or cognition skills. Developmental disorders are extremely diverse. Some children will be minimally affected, while others will need lifelong assistance.

Intellectual disability

Cognitive functioning is significantly below that expected for the child's age, and leads to failure to meet developmental skills for independent living. The child has deficits in functions such as problem-solving, planning, reasoning, academic learning, and learning from experience.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD make affect up to 7% of children and 4% of adults. It is characterized by difficulty focusing and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. 

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

ASD is characterized by difficulty with social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and/or obsessive interests.

Other neurodevelopmental disorders include:
  • Specific learning disorders, including dyslexia
  • Global developmental delay
  • Unspecified intellectual disability
  • Communication disorders
  • Motor disorders, including tics and Tourette's syndrome
Clinical diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders

Clinical diagnosis is based on assessment of cognitive and developmental functioning using standardized measures. It is a "functional diagnosis," not a causal (etiologic) diagnosis. 

Further compounding the situation, many developmental disorders co-occur, such as autism spectrum disorder and intellectual development disorder. Last but not least, cognitive and communication deficits may result in inappropriate behavior and "acting out," which may be mistaken for a behavioral disorder. 

Neuropsychological testing is an essential part of differentiating among various developmental disorders.

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