INTERNET addiction and stress, among many other factors, may contribute to developmental disorders among children in the Philippines, said Dr. Ma. Rochelle Buenavista-Pacifico, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician.
Developmental disorders are “chronic brain problems with motor impairment, language, learning, cognition, and neuro-behavioral symptoms,” said Dr. Pacifico.
“Magkakamag-anak ang mental disorders (mental disorders are related)… They are an evolution of symptoms during infancy and childhood,” she said in a press conference on Sept. 27.
The disorders may arise from genetic, infectious, or toxic factors, traumatic insults, and even environmental exposure like too much Internet exposure and extreme stress on both mothers and the developing infants. She said stress among children makes their brain smaller, lowers their immunity, and can lead to cognitive deficits in learning and memory. Women who suffer extreme stress during pregnancy may have a premature baby, or a child who is temperamental, hyperactive, and inattentive. These children may develop diabetes, depression, and schizophrenia as comorbidities later in life.
Internet addiction and even regular exposure to a computer for an average of seven hours per day also affect child development. According to Dr. Pacifico’s research study, “Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study,” the screen time exposure creates subtle damage even in children with regular Internet exposure. The kids are “impulsive, moody, and cannot pay attention,” she said.
According to her presentation, in the Philippines in 2015, there were 2.1 million children between the ages five to 14 years with mental disabilities. Worldwide, the prevalence of autism — a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life — has increased between 1980 to 2013: in 1980, one in every 10,000 people was autistic; by 2013, it was one in every 68. Dr. Pacifico cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism, and Developmental Disorders Monitoring network as her source.
The increasing number of people with developmental diseases is due to a number of factors: the increase in the survival rate because of improved medical practice; the increase in awareness of these conditions; and the increase in maternal age, with more women deciding to have a baby later in life which increases the risk of having a mentally challenged child.
“Early intervention is key,” said adult psychiatrist Dr. Pearl Reyes.
According to studies, the first three years of a child are critical in development. If a disorder is detected early on, there’s a big chance of “brain re-wiring.”
“There are special kids who can be independent if they have early intervention. There can be autistic kids who can play the piano or excel in school,” she said.
Besides the early intervention, the specialists also emphasize support within the family members.
“A hyperactive child isn’t necessarily a bad child,” said Ms. Reyes. When parents tell their children that they are bad or pasaway, malikot,or magulo (naughty, restless, rowdy) and they keep on hearing this, “there’s a less chance for success later in life,” she said.
The contributing problem, according to the doctors, is that the parents deny that there is a problem because they couldn’t accept it or because of fear of society’s stigma.
The consequences of late detection and treatment are many and lifelong, including “social burden, missed opportunity, strain in family and finances, and social downward shift,” said Ms. Reyes.
The experts couldn’t overemphasized the power of early detection and intervention.
There aren’t many centers for children needing special attention in the Philippines, but one of them is the new Progress Child Development Center located at the Protacio Hospital in Quirino Ave., Tambo, Parañaque. The center is equipped with facilities and specialists for children and adults with developmental disorders. It offers developmental pediatrics, occupational therapy, family counseling, physical and speech therapies, SpEd tutorials, psychiatry, and neurology services.
source: Business World