Common Types of Pediatric Neurological Disorders

Pediatric neurological disorders are prevalent in the United States. According to one cohort study, it was identified that the national estimate was nearly 300,000 child admissions diagnosed with a neurological disorder in the United States alone. The most common pediatric neurological conditions in this cohort study were seizures and traumatic brain injuries.

Other neurological conditions in children include headaches, cerebral palsy, and autism spectrum disorders.

In what follows, we’ll be covering the characteristics of neurological disorders and discussing 3 specific pediatric neurological disorders.

Characteristics of a Neurological Disorder

A neurological disorder is a condition affecting the brain and nervous system which results in a range of symptoms and impairments for the individual.

Pediatric neurological conditions are most often caused by either illness, genetics, or traumatic injuries to the brain. This results in some specific disorders that can be characterized by issues such as neuromuscular dysfunction or mental abnormalities. Depending on the type, severity, and etiology of the neurological disorder, children affected can experience a range of symptoms.

Some Specific Types of Neurological Illnesses

In this section, we will discuss some more details of these illnesses. The following are some of the more common types of pediatric neurological illnesses:

  • Epilepsy
  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy

Other neurological disorders prevalent in children include ADHD, headache and migraine disorders, and other intellectual and social disabilities.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder involving irregular electrical signals misinterpreted by the brain, which leads to neurological events called seizures. Generalized seizures affect both sides of the brain and are characterized by episodes of convulsions and shaking all over.  The individual will often lose consciousness for a short period of time. Focal seizures involve only a single area of the brain and are often characterized by simple confusion. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders; however, seizure type and severity can differ greatly in children.

The primary goal of treating a child with epilepsy is freedom from symptoms altogether, returning them to a normal state of functioning. This goal, however, can be quite difficult to achieve. Seizures are treated with antiseizure medication, and there have been many advancements in drug therapy over recent years.

Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological disorder that implies a wide range of impairments and challenges to socialization, intelligence, speech, and behavior.

Autism

This condition can have a large range of scale of severity, and different characteristics occur in different individuals. There are, however, common signs that can present themselves early on in childhood. These characteristics include eye contact avoidance, delayed speech, obsessive reliance on routine, easily upset and triggered, and difficulty understanding social cues.

According to the CDC, 1 in every 44 children is diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder. Autism is much more common in males than in females. A higher functioning condition in the autism spectrum disorders is Asperger’s Syndrome, in which the individual has difficulty interacting with the world. 

Research suggests that there is a genetic component of autism. Children of an autistic parent have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with autism.

The management of autism includes early interventions for social and intellectual impairments in order to maintain some level of brain development. The scale of necessary intervention will depend on the severity of the disorder, as some individuals are nonverbal while others are fully functioning.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that has a dramatic effect on a patient’s mobility, stability, and balance, and it is categorized primarily by muscular weakness and tonal irregularities. It is a neurological condition that is seen in about 2 of every thousand births in the United States.

Cerebral palsy is typically diagnosed early on in life or even at the time of birth. In this condition, the brain has abnormal development during the prenatal stage, and signs and symptoms usually present themselves at the time of birth, making the diagnosis readily apparent early on.

Cerebral Palsy

Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include impaired and spastic movement, exaggerated reflexes, irregular posture, and involuntary jerking motion. Patients with cerebral palsy typically have a grouping of symptoms, and the symptoms are further categorized by type, such as spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, or mixed.

Management of cerebral palsy will require a multidisciplinary approach due to the number of different medical, social, and psychological needs.  In addition, education and therapy are extremely important in the management of the condition. 

Final Thoughts

The most common types of treatment, management, and preventative measures for children with neurological disorders include lifestyle changes, physiotherapy, musculoskeletal therapies, pain management medication, clinical drug interventions, social and behavioral training, and other cognitive therapy techniques.

Children with chronic neurological disorders typically will have some level of symptomatology of the condition for the duration of their lives.

With effective treatment and intervention protocols, however, children with neurological disorders can have good outcomes and can achieve a much better quality of life than in past years.

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