Socially Handicapped Children

Children who are described as "socially handicapped" feel uncomfortable in social situations and often find it challenging to interact with other people in appropriate ways. Because of the limitations such children with disabilities live with, engaging with other children can cause them distress. They can be limited in extracurricular activities depending on their specific issues. This, in turn, makes other children look upon the child with a disability differently. Due to these differences, barriers are formed between children. Socially handicapped children often feel isolated because of these boundaries. It is only one of the problems they face because of their condition.

Autism is regarded as a severe developmental disability that generally begins within the first three years of life. Some experts believe it is the result of a neurological disorder that changes the way the brain functions, causing delays or problems in many different skills from infancy to adulthood. For example, both children and adults with autism sometimes face difficulties in social interaction. Traits of autism include being interested in repetitive activities and failing to make eye contact with others. Children with autism tend to differ from other children by displaying behavior which others might find difficult to understand or may interpret as a child being "naughty," which is not the case.

Autism belongs to a collection of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). A spectrum disorder is a group of conditions with similar features. While one child may have mild symptoms, another might have more severe traits. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability mainly affecting how a person communicates with and relates to other people. It can also have an impact on how they make sense of the world and people around them. Some people with autism have independent lives while others might have related learning disabilities and require specialist support. Children and adults who have autism can experience sensory problems connected to sounds, tastes, touch, smell and light. Asperger syndrome is classed as a form of autism. People with this condition are often above average intelligence and described as "high functioning."

Most children with Down syndrome have mild or moderate mental health problems. This can limit a person's intellectual abilities as well as the behaviors used to function in their everyday lives. Children with Down syndrome may also have delayed language development and slow motor development, which affects the ability to use their muscles. Even though all children with Down syndrome will have some physical and mental features in common, the symptoms of Down syndrome can range from mild to severe.

Rett syndrome is seen as a unique developmental disorder that begins during infancy. Although it almost always affects girls, it may be also be diagnosed in boys. It influences areas of brain function that are responsible for cognitive, movement, sensory, emotional and motor function. These can have an impact on learning, speech, sensory sensations, mood, breathing, cardiac function, as well as chewing, swallowing and digestion. A child who has Rett syndrome usually starts off in infancy with normal or near normal development. At about six to 18 months, there is a slowing down and even a regression of skills. The first indication that something is wrong may be loss of muscle tone, which is described as hypotonia. Diminished eye contact is another early symptom. The child begins to lose the ability to communicate and in addition to speech, the child also loses intentional use of their hands and starts to make repetitive hand-wringing motions. Children with Rett syndrome can also develop problems with movement and may suffer from seizures and irregular breathing patterns during waking hours. These symptoms generally lessen over time, with communication and eye contact usually improving.

According to Audrey Curtis, author of A Curriculum of the Pre-School Child: Learning to Learn (2002), and Meeting the Needs of Socially Handicapped Children: Background to My World (1981), Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a key figure in meeting the needs of socially handicapped children in Italy in the early years of the 20th century. Her methods have since been widely adopted in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Montessori believed that "every child is unique and is profoundly affected by society and the environment." She argued that when the physical and emotional needs of children, whether they have special needs or not, are met they are more likely to take advantage of the learning opportunities on offer to them.

Socially Handicapped Children: Selected full-text books and articles

Invisible Children in the Society and Its Schools By Sue Books Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Early Education Experiences & School-to-Work Program Participation By Caputo, Richard K Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, Vol. 30, No. 4, December 2003
Investing in Our Children: What We Know and Don't Know about the Costs and Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions By Lynn A. Karoly; Peter W. Greenwood; Susan S. Everingham; Jill Hoube; M. Rebecca Kilburn; C. Peter Rydell; Matthew Sanders; James Chiesa Rand, 1998
Success in Early Intervention: The Chicago Child-Parent Centers By Arthur J. Reynolds University of Nebraska Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Program Participation and Social Competence"
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