Half of Navajo Preschoolers Met the Criteria for a Neurodevelopmental Disorder

February 05, 2024

Language, Speech Sound Disorders, and ASD Were the Most Prevalent Diagnoses

Researchers from the University of New Mexico have recently published a study assessing the neurodevelopment of young Diné (Navajo) children, recognizing their heightened vulnerability to risk factors like poverty and limited medical services. Conducted as part of the Navajo Birth Cohort Study, a prospective birth cohort study, 138 Diné children ages 3 to 5 underwent comprehensive neurodevelopmental assessments. The study’s results indicated that 49% of the sample met DSM-5 criteria for a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis, with language and speech sound disorders being most prevalent, alongside increased rates of autism spectrum disorder compared to the general population. Notably, children with neurodevelopmental disorders demonstrated significantly lower language performance across all measures. Social-emotional, behavioral, and nonverbal cognitive abilities were generally within the average range for these children, which was not expected. The authors suggest their findings underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions and educational support for Diné children facing developmental delays. They also advocate for longitudinal studies to identify resilience factors and optimize their development. Ultimately, their study highlights the complex challenges faced by children in the Navajo Nation and attributes developmental risks to a combination of socioenvironmental factors, historical trauma, and limited access to healthcare and educational resources.

Original Study

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