Now we know that severe behavior disorders develop much earlier and in more complex ways

Now we know that severe behavior disorders develop much earlier and in more complex ways

An international research team led by former Life Span Institute Director and Professor Emeritus Stephen Schroeder has found that severe behavior problems associated with neurodevelopmental disorders begin as young as four months and vary with age, diagnosis, gender, IQ, family income and education and other factors.

Schroeder and the interdisciplinary team of 15 researchers from KU, Texas Tech University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Peruvian colleagues at LSI’s Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú conducted a study of the development of self-injurious behavior (SIB), aggression and stereotyped behavior among infants and toddlers in Peru.

“We haven’t known a lot about how these behaviors develop so that we can decrease or eliminate the behaviors before they become deeply ingrained and intransigent in later life,” Schroeder said.

This is one of the first such studies of its kind because of the young age of the 262 children (4-48 months, mean age 27 months) as well as the extensive evaluations they received under the guidance of the research team, including developmental-behavioral, genetic, nutrition and medical and social history.

Among the major ndings to date: More than 90 percent of the children exhibited some form of SIB, aggression, and stereotyped behavior at much earlier ages and in more complex patterns than previously known. Over half of them were already doing all of the behaviors by six months of age.

They also found interactions among age, diagnosis, gender, IQ and communication scores for the different aberrant behaviors. For instance, younger children with Down Syndrome and more stereotyped behaviors had lower IQs and tended to increase stereotyped behavior and SIB by the end of one year. But older children at risk for autism and more aggression tended to have higher IQs and mothers with more education and higher incomes. Their aggression decreased markedly over one year.

Schroeder and his colleagues are considering a long-term early intervention program to follow these children in Peru, as well a similar project to assess children of Hispanic and other ethnic origins in the U.S.