Boys today are being diagnosed with developmental disorders up to five times more frequently than girls. Generally it is not useful to diagnose most boys with disorders before the age of seven, but this does not mean you shouldn't seek help at any time if you are worried. So the question becomes, how can you recognize signals of a developmental disorder? Here are some clues.
Autism Spectrum Disorders: He has significant difficulty controlling his body, voice, and actions. He does not look people in the eye. He hits angrily more often than those boys and/or “goes internal” more than most boys.
Sensory Processing Disorder: He finds clothes uncomfortable to wear and finds loud noises very difficult. He may suddenly get out-of-control for seemingly no reason (but generally you can trace it back to sensory overstimulation).
Developmental Delay: He has delays in more than one area; for example, in both speech and motor skills. He may have speech apraxia (a delay specifically in speaking) or developmental coordination disorder (an issue in the brain with balance, clumsiness, inability to dress himself) or a social communication disorder (not as severe as autism but indicates itself via responses and conversations that are constantly inappropriate and by general difficulty with verbal communication).
Male-Oriented Depression: He may seem overly angry but may actually be depressed. His violent responses may lead you to think he has a character flaw for autism when in fact he may be very depressed.
In all these cases, and at any time you worry about any disorder, seek a specialist as soon as possible. Strive to be sure the specialist doesn’t just know kids but understands boys specifically. As you make this journey, keep two things in mind: boys can grow out of their disorders, especially the extreme sides of the disorders, and, with proper care, most boys learn to integrate the disorder into their own future lives as heroes. With proper care and devotion to your son’s design, what begins as a “flaw” can become a motivator towards personal growth and life success.
Gregory L. Jantz, PhD is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and an internationally recognized best selling author of over 26 books related to mental wellness and holistic recovery treatment. He is also co-hosting the first-ever Helping Boys Thrive Summit in May. This article features excerpts from Dr. Jantz's book Raising Boys by Design.