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The 7 types of neurodevelopmental disorders (symptoms and causes)

The 7 types of neurodevelopmental disorders (symptoms and causes)

July 12, 2024

When we think of disorders or mental problems it is easy for problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or phobias to come to our mind. ADHD or autism. Next we will review what are the types of neurodevelopmental disorders , the category to which they belong.

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Neurodevelopmental disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders or neurodevelopmental disorders are the set of disorders and mental difficulties that have their origin in a non-neurotypic development of the brain or in the presence of alterations or injuries in its maturation.


They have their origin in early childhood or during the development process, and it is usually possible to detect the first symptoms early.

The alterations caused by these disorders generate difficulties of varying intensity in the process of adaptation and social participation and / or in the performance of basic activities for survival. The activity of the subject is limited or altered regarding what would be usual in other subjects with the same age and conditions.

Types of neurodevelopmental disorders in the DSM-5

The neurodevelopmental disorders label encompasses a large number of disorders that share the aforementioned characteristics, although they present remarkable differences among them depending on the aspects that are affected.


Next we will observe the main groups of neurodevelopmental disorders contemplated by the latest version of one of the most important reference manuals, the DSM-5. To facilitate understanding, disorders caused by the consumption of medical substances or diseases are not included.

1. Intellectual disabilities

Intellectual disability is considered one of the neurodevelopmental disorders, because deficiencies or difficulties of intellectual functions appear and in the adaptive behavior in its conceptual, practical or social aspects , which have as a consequence a possible limitation of the functioning of the subject in and one or more vital areas unless they have specific support.

Also included in this group is the global developmental delay, which is diagnosed when it is not possible to assess the severity of the disorder in children under five, despite the fact that it is observed that it does not meet the expected development milestones. This diagnosis is provisional.


  • Related article: "Intellectual and developmental disability"

2. Communication disorders

Communication disorders are those neurodevelopmental disorders in which the subject is not able to communicate properly or learn to do it despite having enough mental abilities to do it.

Within this group of disorders we find the language disorder (formerly TEL), the phonological disorder, the pragmatic communication disorder or the stuttering or speech fluency disorder of childhood onset.

3. Autism spectrum disorder

The spectrum disorder of autism is characterized by the presence of difficulties in interpersonal communication and interaction, repetitive and restrictive behavior patterns and interests. Those who suffer from it have difficulties when it comes to understanding the rules that govern social interactions and to grasp and express feelings, they usually have a literal oral language and it will be complex for them to capture subtleties and figurative uses of this, to show preference and need for routine and monotony and to accept the changes badly.

Although before, different disorders were distinguished within this spectrum, such as Kanner and Asperger type autism, Currently, it is considered a single disorder that encompasses (although with specifiers).

  • Related article: "The 4 types of Autism and its characteristics"

4. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Another of the most well-known neurodevelopmental disorders, ADHD is a disorder characterized by the presence of typical symptoms of intention (such as difficulty maintaining attention, commission of errors due to lack of attention, high distractibility, no completion of tasks, loss and forgetting of objects and activities , mental absence ...) and / or hyperactivity (talks excessively, motor restlessness, has difficulties to remain seated or to wait turns, interrupts other people's activities ...).

Intention symptoms may predominate, hyperactivity symptoms may occur or a mixed presentation may occur.

It is also possible to find cases in which there are no cases of hyperactivity but only of intention, which is now known as attention deficit disorder or ADD.

  • You may be interested: "Attention deficit or selective attention in ADHD"

5. Specific learning disorder

Specific learning disorder is understood as that in which the subject manifests difficulties in the acquisition and use of academic skills, such as reading, writing and mathematics.

The individual has difficulties when it comes to reading, interpreting and using language (he has problems for example with grammar and spelling) and / or mathematical concepts. These difficulties are above what is expected for someone of the age and intellectual capacity of the subjects , interfering in their academic activity.

6. Motor disorders

Another of the major groups of neurodevelopmental disorders are the motors, in which there are difficulties in aspects related to movement such as coordination or involuntary movements occur.

Within these disorders we find the disorder of the development of coordination, the one of stereotyped movements and the disorders by tics . In this last group we find the Tourette disorder, along with persistent motor or vocal tics and transient tics.

7. Others

This label is used in those disorders linked to neurodevelopmental disorders that cause an affectation of the subject in some or some vital areas, but that do not meet the diagnostic criteria of any of the previous groups of disorders.

For example, those disorders linked to substance use by the mother during pregnancy , or in those cases in which there is not enough information available to classify the disorder in question.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.

Autism - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology (July 2024).


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