A study has found that one in eight children mainly under the age of ten years suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder (NDD).
The study also included children from 25 villages of Goa who were screened for nine childhood disabilities through a door-to-door survey.
Researchers assessed children for vision impairment, epilepsy, neuromotor impairments including cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, speech and language disorders, autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability.
It was found that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder of just over one per cent was comparable to that of research conducted globally. Two more NDDs – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disorder were added to children in the 6-9 year-old age group.
According to the research, one in every eight children between the ages of 2 and 9 years had at least one of the nine NDDs that they were screened for.
Hearing impairment and intellectual disability were the most common disorders. The findings also highlight that about one-fifth of the children assessed had two or more NDDs.
“Our study identifies NDDs in children aged 2-9 years as a significant public health burden for India,” said Dr Gauri Divan, a paediatrician from Sangath, who worked on the research. Sangath was part of a national consortium, which conducted this study on the prevalence of NDD among children.
Around 3,900 children between 2 and 9 years of age were screened from Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Hyderabad, Odisha and Haryana. This study was conducted in 2012 in partnership with the INCLEN Trust, New Delhi, Goa Medical College and the Matruchhaya Seva Trust.
“Our data suggests that the burden of NDDs can be reduced in India by addressing the risk factors such as low birth weight, premature delivery, neurological or brain infections among others,” said Dr Divan.
The researchers have called upon the authorities to have a policy to develop identification and intervention services to meet the needs of these children.