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Developmental Disabilities – Myths vs. Facts

Developmental Disabilities – Myths vs. Facts

Developmental disabilities, also called neurodevelopmental disabilities, are a cluster of conditions caused by an impairment in physical, language, cognitive, learning, or behaviour areas of development and can affect an individual’s everyday functioning. Common developmental disabilities include autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intellectual disabilities, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dyscalculia.

It is important to identify the myths surrounding developmental disabilities.

Here are some of them, and the accompanying facts:

Myth: Development disabilities can be outgrown.
Fact: Developmental disabilities are chronic, lifelong conditions. Currently, there is no cure for developmental disabilities. Although they are lifelong, treatments and interventions can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function.

Myth: A developmental disability is a contagious disease.
Fact: Some developmental disabilities are a result of a disease, but developmental disabilities are nowhere contagious. Developmental disabilities are conditions which affect the individual because of damage or some change in the developing brain. Various factors leading to developmental disabilities include hereditary influences and genetics, maternal health and complications during pregnancy, complications during birth, infections during prenatal or neonatal development, and exposure to environmental toxins.

Myth: A developmental disability is a mental illness.
Fact: A developmental disability is neurological in nature, so it is not the same as mental illness. A person with developmental disability may develop mentally below the average rate, or may have trouble with learning or adjusting to the environment, but these individuals can learn. Appropriate intervention and education can lead them to have a fulfilling and productive life in the community and society as a whole.

Myth: Children with autism are all alike.
Fact: Children with autism are as different from one another as we are different from one another. Since it is a spectrum disorder, different children can be found in different parts of the spectrum.

Myth: Children with autism cannot feel or express love or empathy.
Fact: Autism doesn’t make a person unable to feel the emotions you feel. It just makes the individual communicate feelings differently. Many people with autism are highly capable of feeling and expressing love, but in idiosyncratic ways sometimes. Furthermore, there are individuals with autism who have the capacity for empathy, though they may not always express their empathy in a typical manner. Others however, do suffer from lack of empathy. No child with autism is the same.

Myth: All children with ADHD are hyperactive.
Fact: Not all children with ADHD are hyperactive. There are three types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and the combined type. A person with predominantly inattentive type of ADHD do not manifest hyperactivity. This was previously referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Myth: ADHD isn’t associated with any other conditions.
Fact: ADHD rarely occurs in isolation. New hypothesis sees ADHD as a foundational disorder, meaning it is a base or “foundation” that increases the risk of experiencing other disorders across the lifespan.

Myth: Children with learning disabilities are unable to learn in school.
Fact: Most people with learning disabilities can learn very well, only that they learn in different ways and may need different environments to learn. The way they process reading or mathematical information is not the same as a typical student.

Myth: Children with dyslexia have low IQ.
Fact: Dyslexia is not correlated to low IQ. Individuals with dyslexia may have average, above average or even IQs in the gifted level. Dyslexia is an impairment in the brain’s ability to translate information, not a form of intellectual disability. Intellectual disability, on the other hand, is correlated to low IQ, as it is specifically associated with delayed or disordered cognitive development.

These myths and facts are more than just fascinating trivia. We are to keep them in mind as we support individuals with special needs. The more we learn about their conditions, the better we can help and advocate for them.

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