Pediatric Neurology: 7 Types of Disorders
There are many reasons your pediatrician might refer you to a pediatric neurologist, a specialist who diagnoses and treats physical, mental and emotional conditions associated with the brain and nervous system.
Typically, the neurologist will examine your child and conduct a variety of tests to assess vision, coordination, reflexes, strength, sensory responses and more. The initial goal is to determine if there’s a neurological problem, whether it’s mild or more severe, and what type of disorder might be involved. Common categories include:
- Behavioral disorders. This category encompasses a wide variety of brain-nerve function disorders. Examples include autism, anxiety, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), sleep issues and severe underperformance in school.
- Developmental delays. Each child develops at their own pace, but when a child fails to meet significant markers within an appropriate timeframe, it may be a warning sign. Common problems include difficulty thinking and learning, mastering speech and language, developing fine and gross motor skills, exhibiting appropriate behavior, or demonstrating appropriate social growth.
- Injuries and tumors. Tumors in or traumatic injuries to the head, neck or spine can radically affect a child’s physical, mental and emotional development now and into the future. The first step is to evaluate the extent of the problem through physical exams and imaging technologies such as MRIs, CTs and x-rays, then the neurologist will define a plan of action in conjunction with other pediatric specialists.
- Intellectual disability. This term has replaced mental retardation, and it refers to children with significant mental challenges that affect both their IQ and their ability to care for themselves in the long run. Often, these disabilities are complicated by other medical issues, so the neurologist may be one of many specialists involved in assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
- Movement disorders. When the nervous system can’t properly control muscle movement, children experience difficulties with balance, coordination, eye movement, speaking, walking and/or maintaining an upright stance or seated position. Common examples include Tourette’s syndrome, tics, tremors, juvenile Parkinson’s disease, Friederich’s ataxia, and involuntary muscle spasms or jerking motions.
- Nerve-muscle disorders. This classification encompasses a range of dysfunctions in the nervous and muscular systems that cause numbness, weakness, wasting away of muscle tissue and loss of coordination. Examples include cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy and polymyositis.
- Seizures. Illness, injury or congenital defects can create abnormal chemical and electrical changes in the brain that cause seizures. Epilepsy is perhaps the most widely known example. Convulsive seizures involve the whole body and may include loss of consciousness, while focal seizures affect one part of the body or prompt unusual actions such as hand-wringing or walking in circles.
This article is not intended as medical advice. See your pediatrician for specific advice on your child’s health.