The Neuropsychology of Child Development

The neuropsychology of child development is a discipline that bridges the gap between psychology and neurology. The truth is that in recent years has grown a lot, as we are increasingly aware of all we can take care of future generations researching it.

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In recent decades, interest in learning and development problems in children has grown. This is how the neuropsychology of child development was born. This discipline addresses the relationship between the maturational process of the central nervous system and behavior during childhood. Thus, this discipline of neuropsychology places in a central place the assessment of neurodevelopment in the prevention and early detection of possible disorders.

Chávez (2003) states that in order to determine if a child presents problems in their neurodevelopment, it is important, first of all, to know the organization and normal development of the central nervous system. This is because knowledge about the nervous system and its development is the basis for the prevention and detection of different disorders.

In the same way, Rains (2003) refers to alterations in the nervous system and brain maturation due to pre, peri and postnatal causes. These alterations, in almost all cases, result in neuropsychological disorders in childhood. If these are not detected in time, they can increase their sequelae: that is why the authors emphasize the importance of the neuropsychology of child development.

Other authors, such as Weber and Reynolds (2004), emphasize the influence of environmental factors on brain development. Thus, they carry out studies in which they analyze the association between brain plasticity and traumatic events during childhood. The authors explain that, in the United States, of the children reported annually for abuse (traumatic event), between 27% and 100% develop physical, behavioral, social, cognitive or emotional problems.

Thus, it seems that the study of child development neuropsychology focuses on the risk factors and possible psychopathological and neuropsychological disorders that these can cause in children.

Origin of childhood brain injuries

According to the authors Cuervo and Ávila, the etiology of childhood brain injuries can be classified according to various indicators depending on the moment in which they occur:

  • Prenatal (toxoplasmosis, intrauterine malnutrition, intrauterine abuse among others).
  • Perinatals (hypoxia, meconium …).
  • Postnatal (cranio-encephalic traumatisms, infections, malnutrition …).

Hence the importance of a complete clinical history in the evaluation. This must include all the information referring to the characteristics and conditions of development during the first years of life. Some authors classify the main causes of brain injury according to the type of damage in:

  • Traumatic.
  • Vascular (hemorrhages).
  • Infectious (meningitis, toxoplasmosis).
  • Metabolic (galactosemia).
  • Neurotoxic.

These authors emphasize the importance of cerebral plasticity and neuropsychological maturity in childhood to evaluate sequelae and recovery after injury.

Assessment of the neuropsychology of child development

Some authors affirm that the assessment of the neuropsychology of child development is not equal to the assessment of the adult. This is because the neuropsychology of development has as its main object of study the development of cognitive functions and their relationship with brain maturation throughout the life cycle. Meanwhile, the neuropsychology of child development focuses on:

  • The differences in brain maturation from birth to adolescence among boys and girls.
  • The differences between the adult brain and the developing brain, as well as …
  • The inverse pattern observed in the development of the white matter versus that of the gray matter.

Neuropsychological maturity

Neuropsychological maturity is defined as the level of organization and maturational development that allows a development in cognitive and behavioral functions, according to the chronological age of the person. Changes during development are highlighted, especially in childhood.

In this way, the evaluation and intervention of the neuropsychology of child development must start from specific objectives according to the age of the girl or boy.

Neurodevelopmental evaluation of children

In childhood, the etiology of neuropsychological disorders can be located in two groups (1):

  • First, the subjects with specific affectation of maturational development.
  • Second, the subjects who after a normal initial development suffer a pathological accident that leaves sequels that alter the development in a focal or diffuse way.

Areas that should be evaluated in child neuropsychology

  • Motor skills
  • Manual dexterity.
  • Right-left orientation.
  • Orofacial Praxias.
  • Verbal control of motor skills.
  • Perception
  • Visual.
  • Auditory
  • Tactile.
  • Language
  • Receptive and expressive professors of oral language.
  • Psychoeducational aspects.
  • Memory
  • Verbal and non-verbal.

In the short and long term.

  • Some neuropsychological tests of child development
  • Child neuropsychological maturity questionnaire (CUMANN).
  • ENI Test (Child Neuropsychological Evaluation).

Thus, it is clear that the neuropsychological intervention of child development must be global. In societies like the current one, the detection, rehabilitation and stimulation of functions that favor neuropsychological maturity are urgent. That is why it is important to develop disciplines such as the neuropsychology of child development, with the aim of preventing the health of children.