According to the CDC, one in seven U.S. kids are affected by a developmental disability, and around 7 million school-age children have been diagnosed with a disability. Most of those kids have been the worst hit by authorities’ mitigation strategies against the novel coronavirus, as disability doesn’t pair well with online classes and rampant lack of supervision.
Unfortunately, these children are not the only collateral victims’ of ill-thought public health policies. There are many others that live with a childhood disability and do not even know it. For instance, autism is so hard to diagnose that many adults learn that they have it in their thirties or forties. Meanwhile, their peers unaware of the condition are sentenced to a lifetime of impairment and social isolation, which has pushed many of them to the brink of despair.
Our list of the most common childhood disabilities affecting U.S. children is a drop-in-the-bucket effort to raise awareness of the issue and maybe help some of those kids out.
What is Childhood Disability?
Childhood disability comes in many shapes, including disabilities that you are born with or those caused by an injury later on. There are also disabilities that you are stuck with, more or less, for the rest of your life, like autism and cerebral palsy, and disabilities that you can outgrow with early intervention, like ADHD.
In short, a childhood disability is a physical, intellectual, developmental, and even emotional impairment that prevents disabled children from fully participate in everyday life and properly adapt to society. According to the Social Security Administration, a child’s impairment can be considered a disability only if it “results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities that are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.”
3 Most Common Childhood Disabilities in U.S. Children
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD affects one in ten U.S. children aged between 13 and 18. While most kids outgrow the condition, around 4% of American adults live with the disability. ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental childhood disorder. Children affected by it have poor impulse control, short attention spans, and high activity levels.
It is unclear what causes ADHD, but researchers believe genetic factors, premature birth, brain injuries, and smoking or alcohol intake by the mother during pregnancy might be the cause. Recent research suggests that a mother’s high-fat, high-sugar diet during pregnancy might play a role too.
There’s no standardized test to diagnose ADHD, so doctors need to rely on family accounts and direct observation when making a diagnosis.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
ASD is a neurological disorder that is horrendously underdiagnosed. The spectrum includes Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism that can easily fly under the radar but which used to be a diagnosis on its own. According to the CDC’s 2020 numbers, one in 54 U.S. kids is diagnosed with ASD. That marks a huge increase from the agency’s 2000 numbers (one in 150 U.S. children).
ASD is an umbrella term that includes multiple neurological and developmental disorders that make social interaction and speech and nonverbal communication extremely difficult for ASD patients. The more severe cases also include repetitive motor and sensory behaviors and high sensitivity to certain sensory stimuli.
Unfortunately, ASD is often misdiagnosed as it shares symptoms with other childhood disabilities. For instance, ASD kids with ADHD are often diagnosed as having severe ADHD, with health professionals failing to acknowledge that ASD might trigger the severe symptoms.
Also, the common misconception that an autistic child must fit a certain profile portrayed by the mass media and the movie industry makes it increasingly difficult to diagnose the condition. Girls living with autism are seldom diagnosed because they are better at mimicking healthy people’s social behaviors and hiding their disability than their male counterparts.
Cerebral Palsy (C.P.)
C.P. is the most common physical childhood disorder affecting children in the USA. It is estimated that 500,000 Americans live with the condition, while 8,000 infants are diagnosed with the disorder every year. In the U.S. alone, every hour, a baby with C.P. is born.
C.P. symptoms are very varied: abnormal posture or gait, muscle tones issues (muscles are either too relaxed or too stiff), and developmental delays. The disability usually flies under the radar over the first year of life, but by age two, parents should be able to tell that there is something wrong with their child.
Cerebral palsy is usually caused by a birth defect, genetic predisposition, or a botched delivery procedure that causes a sudden interruption to the baby’s blood or oxygen supply. C.P. is caused by either an injury to the developing brain or an underlying condition that leads to abnormal development of the brain.
Children cannot outgrow C.P. on their own, but with early diagnosis and early intervention, their life prospects can greatly improve. Unfortunately, many parents with severely disabled children do not even know that their child’s disability was caused by a health professional’s negligence.
So, these parents end up shouldering all medication and therapy costs without even being aware that there are highly trained law professionals out there, like this Pennsylvania cerebral palsy lawyer, that could help them rake between 5- and 6-digit figures in compensation from the people responsible for their children’s disability.
These are just some of the most common childhood disabilities affecting our nation’s children. Some conditions can be outgrown, and while others cannot, but in most cases, with an early diagnosis and proper intervention, symptoms can be significantly diminished so that the disabled child can lead a seemingly normal life.