It’s irritating, taxing and embarrassing when your toddler kicks, bites and screams to the point that you want to pull your hair out or better yet flee the scene and get your hair cut and styled! Defiant behavior is naughty but normal in most little ones.
It’s the rare toddler — fingers crossed that it’s not yours — who has brain malfunctions that can lead to behavioral disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD which can make it next to impossible for your tot to sit still or stay focused.
Sensory problems, on the other hand, affect how your tyke reacts to the five senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Screenings are available if you suspect your toddler has developmental or sensory processing issues.
Sensory Processing Disorder
If your toddler is dealing with sensory processing disorder or SPD you probably noticed early on that your little bundle of joy isn’t nearly as joyous as you’d anticipated. She may have been a cranky, hard-to-please infant that didn’t improve with time.
A toddler with SPD has more than her share of temper tantrums, hates change and is prone to anxiety — a combination that could drive Mother Teresa over the edge. Symptoms of SPD also include but are not limited to extreme sensitivity or lack of response to touch, movement, sights or sounds.
Bright red flags may show up during a professional evaluation for sensory processing disorder when your toddler is observed at play or asked to perform simple motor skills like scribbling or jumping. SPD screening may include a complete physical exam and a comprehensive screening of your toddler’s psychological, physical and speech/language development. Interviews with parents and caregivers may also be part of the screening process, notes the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Is your toddler obsessed with parts of objects like tire tread on a toy car or fingernails on a doll? It could be a sign of an autism spectrum disorder or ASD, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Nearly half of ASD cases can be diagnosed during the toddler years. Loud music and bright lights can be upsetting to an autistic toddler.
Turning down the volume and using low-watt bulbs may help prevent unnecessary angst for your child and help you maintain your sanity. A pediatrician or psychologist will normally conduct an autism spectrum disorder screening that involves close observation of play and child-caregiver interactions, as well as a physical examination.
Toddlers with any speech delays or those suspected of having ASDs should undergo hearing tests. Doctors will also examine the level of motor, language, social, self-help and cognitive skills.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
You might wonder what in the world is wrong with your toddler if she always behaved like a perfect little princess. Most tykes are defiant from time to time but little ones suffering from ADHD have behavioral problems on a daily basis.
They may find it next to impossible to follow simple directions like “Sit down.” Tots with ADHD can become enraged for no apparent reason and hit their siblings or other kids. During an ADHD screening, your pediatrician will rule out other conditions like depression, anxiety, child abuse, neglect and family stress that can mimic ADHD. Your doctor may schedule further physical, psychological and neurological tests, and gather nutritional information.
Your toddler may be slow to pick up his toys or move at a snails’ pace when finishing his veggies but can still be smart as a whip. A toddler who is intellectually impaired — also referred to as mental retardation — has an IQ that’s considerably below the average 100, which makes it difficult to become acclimated to her environment.
He is slow to develop language skills but doesn’t necessarily have behavioral problems. Screening for mental retardation must be conducted by a certified psychologist who will observe and analyze your toddler’s ability to adapt to change.
The psychologist may ask your toddler to comb her hair, put on a sweater, wipe a counter or meet a stranger. He will also want to know about any growth problems, seizures or problems with vomiting or fatigue.