Common Neurological Disorders in Children

A neurological disorder is an ailment of the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Depending upon the neurological injury, children with a neurological disorder may have difficulty with movement, speech, thinking, seeing or hearing. Some neurological disorders in children are inherited and others are developed during pregnancy, during birth or later in childhood 2. Common neurological disorders in childhood include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injury 2.

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Symptoms vary depending upon the type of neurological disorder 2. One common neurological disorder among children is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. A child with ADHD has concentration difficulties and is restless.

On the other hand, repetitive actions, restricted interests and impaired social and communication skills characterize autism. Children with autism usually have difficulty with social interaction, pretend play, speech and nonverbal communication, such as maintaining eye contact.

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders caused by brain damage that affects body movement and muscle tone. Children with cerebral palsy may experience difficulty with walking, eating, changing clothes or engaging in other common activities.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, occurs when an external force damages the brain.


The causes of pediatric neurological disorders vary, as reported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2. Cerebral palsy and TBI arise from injury to the brain. Researchers believe that ADHD and autism are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and are investigating the specific mechanisms that cause the disorders.


The age of onset may differ, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2. Cerebral palsy develops in the womb, during childbirth or in early childhood. Autism typically appears before the age of 3 years. For a diagnosis of ADHD, symptoms must appear before the age of 7 years. The greatest number of TBIs occurs among adolescents and young adults.


According to a review of research in the January 30, 2007, issue of Neurology, about 2 per 1,000 children are estimated to have autism. Cerebral palsy affects about 2 out of 1,000 children. ADHD is seen in about 34 out of 1,000 children. About 475,000 TBIs occur each year among children aged 0 to 14 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Neurological disorder treatment varies depending upon the type and severity of condition. Treatment may include:

  • medication
  • surgery
  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy,
  • psychotherapy

Devices, such as

  • wheelchairs
  • braces,
  • eyeglasses
  • may be needed to assist the child with specific deficits