Development Disorders in Children with Disabilities

Development Disorders in Children with Disabilities

  Autor Claudia Gabriela Dumitriu, psiholog Data: 26.02.2009

Development Disorders in Children with Disabilities
According to the specialized studies regarding the education of children with special needs, most countries make a big difference between physical and mental handicap. A third category, speaking in term of quality, is represented by children with disorders related to adaptation, which have problems in the relation with the environment. 

A child with disability is a person whose mental and/ or physical skills which are genetic or acquired, are lower than the ones of children with the same age. An important indicator to assess the severity of the disability is the study of the development failure. The higher the failure degree is and the more levels of development it includes, the more we can assess the disability degree as being higher. 
More terms considered synonymous are used for this: deficiency, disability, handicap. Actually, each of them is related to different aspects. The term "disability" refers to functional aspects, to an activity, the term "deficiency" refers to the medical, anatomical aspect , and the term "handicap" refers to the social aspect, personal and social adaptation difficulties. 

There are many types of deficiencies. Below, we present the one related to the development ability of the child: 
  • Mild disability it's when the maximum development of abilities is possible, when the individual might become completely independent; 
  • Moderate disability it's when the development of the abilities depend on the specialized training; 
  • Profound disability it's when the development is highly affected and there is no possibility for the person to reach a satisfactory independence degree, and they need permanent support. 
Further one, we will discuss about the main levels of the child's development (motor, speech and intellectual), and the manner in which they are affected in children with disabilities. 

Motility development starts in the first year of life, immediately after birth and this is the first step to gaining the independence. For this to happen normally and harmoniously, the physical and psychomotor development should not be affected. The physical deficiencies are abnormalities caused by morpho-functional disorders. Children with physical disabilities are intellectually normal, but the physical impairment may affect the personality development, when the child grows in an improper environment with people who are unable to accept and support his development, causing imbalances, anxieties, conflicts and inner tensions, relationship and integration difficulties. The more serious the physical impairment is, the less is the independence level that the child might achieve. The psychomotor deficiencies include any form of damage of the complex motor and psychological function, of the ability of voluntarily controlling the actions. Motility includes: lateralization (knowing the two sides: left and right), body schema (the representation of the own body), patio-temporal orientation (placing in space and time), motion perception and representation. 

Speech development The child starts learning the mother tongue, in the second year of life, and this is just a step in the long lasting learning process. For this process to have best results, all the vocal apparatus should be developed properly, and the educational process should be coherent and satisfactory. If one of these conditions is not fulfilled, speech disorders occur and they are difficult or impossible to correct once consolidated. The speech development disorders include: poor comprehension and oral expression, writing, reading, mimicry, articulation deficiencies, there all the deviations from normal speech. The speech disorders affect both the learning processes of the child and his social function. The speech deficiencies may lead to the inability of assimilating new knowledge, of communication and relationship with others. A certain type of deficiency may lead to delays in the development of other functions. 

Cognitive development. In the third year of life of the child, the ability to judge is developing. From the relation between memory and representation, appear the questions such as "how?", "where?", "why?", etc., which make the child aware of his own individuality, of the meaning and significance of others, of the relations between people. This process may be disturbed by the presence of intellectual deficiencies. Many times, excepting the very serious cases, the intellectual deficiency is noticed at school age, when the parents and teachers notice a delay in the learning process of the child, comparing to the rest of the class. 

Mental retardation is a general disorder including deficiencies of structure, organization, intellectual, affective, adaptive behavior, psychomotor development. The mind as a whole is affected and the more severe the deficiency is the more affected the other aspects of child development are. Nowadays, there are four types of clinical forms of mental retardation according to the IQ: 

  • Mild mental retardation (I degree- moderate deficiency), the IQ is between 50-70/80. It is considered to be the mildest form of deficiency, the child being recoverable at school, socially, being teachable, able to become independent but not perfectly responsible of his own actions, as he lacks the ability to predict the consequences of his actions, to some extent. He is na´ve, influential, unmotivated to take care of himself and socially unadapted. The level of psychological development and of adaptation is generally reduced. Mental retardation has different categories, from mild to profound, associated with behavioral and affective disorders. 
  • Severe mental retardation (II degree- imbecility), with an IQ between 20-55/60, with the incapacity of speech comprehension, of self-care.  It's easy to understand that this type of deficiency affects all the development levels dramatically, being able of a relative social adaptation, of easy actions, routine, the moral judgment is very affected, and he might be stable emotionally speaking, or with psychopathic manifestations, case when he needs to be institutionalized. 
  • Profound mental retardation (III degree - idiocy), the most dramatic and fortunately the most rare form of mental retardation, with an IQ below 20. The intellectual development stops around the mental age of 3, with organs and vegetative disorders, sensory motor and instinctive disorders. This includes the cessation of physical, verbal development, associated with the incapacity of self-protection and relationship. 
Te recovery of the child with intellectual disabilities focuses on the enhancement of the functions that weren't affected, and the purpose of recovery is the increase of the ability of self-caring, the creation of some abilities and behaviors to help him socially integrate. The methods are psychological, educational and medical, and the best results are obtained through the combination of these three. 


Monica Delicia Avramescu-"Defectologie si logopedie", Published by Romania de Maine Foundation", Bucuresti, 2002 

Read the English version of this article: Development Disorders in Children with Disabilities