Learn about developmental disorders in children including pervasive developmental disorders, behavioural disorders, and learning disorders

Developmental disorders are conditions that develop in childhood which can cause a serious impairment in specific areas of the child’s development - emotional, psychological, or intellectual. They arise during a child's development and often impair normal development.
Specific learning disorders usually involve developmental delays which are not a result of a lack of education or attributable to other mental health disorders. There is some controversy associated with classifying these specific disorders as mental health disorders since there is often no other psychopathology associated with them. The individual may have a problem with a particular area, e.g. reading, but is otherwise normal. Often, individuals have more than one learning deficit but no other psychopathology.


Behavioural disorders are those associated with problematic behaviours like difficulties with attention and concentration, hyperactivity, and conduct issues.   

Towards a better understanding of childhood disorders

Developmental disorders are conditions that develop in childhood which can cause a serious impairment in specific areas of the child’s development - emotional, psychological, or intellectual.

There is no universal definition of what we mean by developmental disorders. The term 'disorder' refers to a psychiatric syndrome and is the preferred term for what were previously labelled as neuroses. 'Developmental' relates to the fact that these conditions usually emerge during childhood development. Development is a useful concept to consider since it enables comparison between the skills and abilities a child currently has, and those that they might be expected to have given their age and level of development. Where significant deficits are noted the child may have a disorder. There are various ways that childhood developmental disorders may be categorised which we shall come to shortly.


Enhance your knowledge and awareness of clinical syndromes

This detailed course provides a solid background to different groups of childhood disorders. If taken with our Child & Adolescent Mental Health course you will have covered the full range of recognised childhood mental health disorders. This type of knowledge can be valuable:   

  • As a teacher
  • As a parent
  • As a counsellor
  • As a youth or welfare worker
  • Or in any other capacity where you are dealing with children.


1. Nature and Scope of Developmental Disorders
Classification of Childhood Disorders; What causes of Developmental Disorders- Genetic Factors, Physical Factors, Environmental Factors; A General Overview of the Diagnosis of Developmental Disorders; The Impact on the Families and Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disorders; Learning Disabilities; Co-morbid Disorders

2. Autism -Autistic Disorder
Causes and definitions of Autism; The Signs and Symptoms of Autism; History of the Perception of Autism; Prevalence of Autism in the General Population; The Autism Spectrum; Issues Facing Children and Adolescents with Autism; Treatments for Children and Adolescents with Autism; Supporting Children with Autism

3. Asperger's Disorder
The Signs and Symptoms of Asperger’s Disorder; Causes of Asperger’s Disorder; The History of Asperger’s Disorder; The Prevalence & Course of Asperger’s Disorder in the General Population; Treatments Available for Children and Adolescents with Asperger’s Disorder; Support Services for Children with Asperger’s Disorder

4. Other Developmental Disorders
Definition of Pervasive Developmental Disorders; Rett’s Disorder; Childhood Disintegrative Disorder; Causes of Developmental Disorders; A General View on How Developmental Disorders are Diagnosed; The Impact of Developmental Disorders on the Child or Adolescent and their family

5. Attention Disorders
Signs & Symptoms of ADHD; Causes of ADHD; Historical Background of ADHD; Prevalence & Course of ADHD; Treatment of ADHD; Support Available; The Impact of ADD and ADHD on the Child or Adolescent and their family

6. Conduct Disorders
Signs and Symptoms of Conduct Disorders; Causes of Conduct Disorders; Prevalence & Course of Conduct Disorders in the General Population; Definition of Oppositional Defiant Disorder; Signs and Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder; Causes of Oppositional Defiant Disorder; Prevalence & Course of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in the General Population; Anti-Social Personality Disorder (APD); Treatments Available for Conduct Disorders; The Impact of Conduct Disorders on Children and their family;

7. Learning Disorders
Specific Developmental Disorders; Reading Disorder (Developmental Dyslexia); Disorder of Written Expression (Specific Spelling Disorder); Mathematics (Arithmetic) Disorder

8. Communications Disorders
Definition of Communication Disorders; Causes of Communication Disorders; Phonological Disorder; Expressive Language Disorder; Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder; Stuttering; Motor Skills Disorder; Impact on the Child and Family of Communication Disorders

9. Special Project

Course Duration - 100 hours


This is only one of many things that can impair a child's development. Treatment is different for different conditions, but in the case of ADHD, the following treatments are the normal options that would be considered by a professional therapist. 

There are two main approaches to treatment of ADHD – Medication and Psychotherapy.
Whilst medication is the most common treatment, it is thought that better results will be achieved by combining medication with psychotherapy interventions. 


The most common type of medication used to treat ADHD is stimulant drugs which (despite sounding like they’d do the opposite) work to calm the child, reducing the child’s hyperactivity and impulsivity, enabling the child to focus better, and may improving motor functions. Stimulant drugs work on the dopaminergic system. There are two main classes of stimulant drugs – amphetamine and methylphenidate. These are sold under a variety of trading names, such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta. Stimulant medications can be quick acting (within 30 minutes), and either short (4 - 6 hours) or long (8 – 12 hours) lasting. 
Non-stimulant drugs are also available, such as atomoxetine (Strattera) that acts on the noradrenergic system. This has a more gradual onset and its full effect may not be felt for up to 3 weeks. Every child is different, so be prepared for some “trial and error” to figure out the best type of medication and the most suitable dosage for the child. This can change over time, so it is important to be aware of the child’s response to the medication. Medication will need to be monitored by a suitable professional.

Pros: Medication is an easy option that can produce dramatic results fast.

Cons: Side effects associated with ADHD medications are common and may include headaches, stomach issues, insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, irritability, anxiety, feeling “jittery”, mood swings, potential physical growth deficits. Further information is needed about long-term effects – current studies are inconclusive or contain methodological flaws. 


There are many different psychotherapeutic approaches to dealing with ADHD. Here are some approaches that may help:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a talking therapy that addresses a combination of how a person is thinking about themselves or a situation, and their resulting behaviour. For a child with ADHD, CBT can help to retrain the way the child thinks and behaves by exploring self-defeating behaviours, talking about things that upset them, learning about to handle emotions, and problem solve ways to deal with daily problems. For example, it can help a child to develop strategies to help them to stop and think about the best response, rather than impulsively leaping in. CBT is also a powerful way for the child and parents to address associated issues, such as low self-esteem, relationship problems, and aggression. CBT can be useful for parents to help them better handle, and improve the child’s behaviour. 

  • Behavioural Modification

Behavioural therapy focuses specifically on aiming to change behaviour. It often involves rewards and praise to reinforce positive behaviours, and consequences for unwanted behaviours. Parents and teachers can both be involved in this therapy, and it can be effective to include the child in the development of the therapeutic program. It is important that the desired behaviour is clear to the child, and that they thoroughly understand the goal, as well as the rewards and consequences. The parents and teachers will need to be consistent over time to produce the desired changes.  

  • Parenting
    Parents have a vitally important role in helping their child manage their behaviours. Parents may also seek specific training in parenting strategies to help support their child with ADHD. 
  1. As mentioned, parents may help modify behaviour by developing a reward/consequence system to encourage desired behaviours and decrease unwanted behaviours. Don’t try and solve every problem at once as this may confuse the child – choose one or two issues to deal with at a time. Ensure that children are given the opportunity to make the choice to engage in the desired behaviour to help them to learn self-control and to empower them. Children with ADHD are often more likely to get told off than praised, so be sure to notice and praise children when they do something good – no matter how small! It is a good practise to focus on the child’s strengths, rather than just their challenges.
  2. Children with ADHD work best when they have a structured routine to follow as it reduces so they know what is expected of them. A set structure also reduces disorganisation and distraction. Stick to this routine as closely as possible – any changes should be planned in advance. Whilst it is good to avoid having too much free time, be careful not to overwhelm the child with too many after school activities – which could lead to them being even more distracted. Try and keep the routine as simple and regular as possible.
  3. Following on from a structured routine is consistency, it is very important that the parents are consistent with their children to help them to learn rules, and develop appropriate behaviours. 
  4. Parents will play an important part in role modelling appropriate behaviour for their children. This can be an especially useful way to help the child with organisation – demonstrating how to keep things organised, keeping things in their correct place, etc.
  5. Make sure you are educated about your child’s challenges, so you know what to expect from them. What you might see as misbehaviour, being difficult or stubborn may actually be part of the symptoms of ADHD. Understand that the child is not misbehaving on purpose, and their misbehaviour is not personal.
  6. Get support - connect with other parents of children with ADHD, connect with support groups, engage in forums, develop self-care for yourself (relaxation, meditation, time out, massage, etc).
  • Social Skills Training
    Because children with ADHD often struggle with social interaction, training in social skills can be helpful. The training should help the children to learn how to interact with others in appropriate and satisfying ways to develop good social relationships. This is usually done in a group setting with a therapist. The therapist will often demonstrate the appropriate behaviour then the children will practice using role play. Some of the basic skills that may be taught are how to start a conversation, how to understand other people’s perspectives and reactions, how to hold eye contact, listening skills and how to play cooperatively with others. It is important that the child learns how to transfer these skills into real world situations. 

Other things that can help

  • Diet 
    Dietary modifications may help a child with ADHD. Some suggestions include reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates eaten (especially sugar), limit the intake of food colours (especially red and yellow) preservatives and additives, eat a diet high in protein (meats, dairy, eggs, etc), and increase the intake of Omega-3 fatty acid (such as in salmon, tuna, some other white fish, brazil nuts, walnuts, olive oil – or as a supplement). The child may also gain improvements from taking other nutritional supplements as well –a naturopath, nutritionist, or similar who specialises in this area may be able to help. Another dietary point to consider is allergies – some foods may aggravate ADHD symptoms in some children, pay attention to how the child responds to different foods. Elimination diets can help identify foods that may trigger a response. 
  • Patterning
    Although this has not been proven, some believe that ADHD can be treated through taking children through developmental steps, such as crawling. The idea is that children need to develop sequentially, and if steps have been missed out, such as walking before crawling, it may contribute to ADHD symptoms. 
  • Vision training
    This can include eye exercises
  • Occupational Therapy
    Occupational therapists can develop programmes to help children with sensory processing difficulties, develop tools to cope with different situations, and help them to focus and learn.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is a great way to boost the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, which may help with focus and attention.


How This Course Could Help You

The course is of most value to people interested in:

  • Youth work
  • Child and adolescent counselling
  • School counselling
  • Teaching
  • Child psychology
  • Caring roles
  • Youth coaching


Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

Email us at [email protected]


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