The onset of schizophrenic symptoms before the age of 12 is very rare; it is less than one-sixtieth as common as it is for adults. But being aware of early warning signs is still very important for the purpose of seeking care as soon as possible. Here are some early and later signs of childhood schizophrenia to watch for.
Late or unusual crawling or walking
Crawling and walking abnormalities are a concern since it can signal many possible conditions including autism, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia. Crawling usually happens between six and ten months with the average age being eight months. While lack of crawling can be a concern, it’s not necessarily a bad sign, since some babies crawl much later or even skip the crawling stage altogether.
Children learn to talk at different rates, but if a child isn’t speaking within several weeks of the average communication age, consider talking to your pediatrician. The likelihood is that the child is completely normal, but consult a pediatrician if by four months he or she isn’t mimicking sounds, or if by six months the child isn’t laughing and squealing.
Abnormal motor behaviors
Abnormal motor behaviors such as rocking and arm-flapping can be an early warning sign of schizophrenia or an autism disorder. Excessive clumsiness in young children may also be a signal.
Hypersensitivity to stimuli
Sensitivity to bright lights, rapid movements, and loud sounds can be a sign of many conditions, including attention deficit disorder (ADD), autism, and schizophrenia. Children who are overly sensitive to these stimuli may act particularly fussy and may be very clingy, for instance needing to be cuddled frequently.
Unfocused eye movements
Difficulty focusing, particularly on slow-moving objects, can be an early warning sign. Smooth pursuit eye movements, which allow the eyes to closely follow a moving object, are often deficient in people with schizophrenia, autism, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Abnormal sleep habits
Excessive sleep, insomnia, or other sleep disturbances can signal schizophrenia. With schizophrenia, the destruction of dopamine-producing cells in the body can result in sleep problems that are noticeable before other motor problems become apparent.
Some people with schizophrenia express emotions that are inappropriate for the situation. For instance, laughing in solemn occasions, smiling when being scolded, or showing unwarranted feelings of anger or anxiety.
Poor school performance
Underperformance at school may be one of the first signs of schizophrenia, since the underlying brain abnormalities begin to manifest themselves in an inability to learn and organize thoughts. Declining school performance should be addressed early on in order to promptly deal with any potential health issues.
Schizophrenics frequently isolate themselves socially for many reasons. Paranoid schizophrenics find it difficult to trust others, which results in them avoiding interaction altogether. Another condition is referred to as anhedonia, where schizophrenics lose interest in their surroundings.
Disorganized thoughts and incoherent speech in an older child can indicate schizophrenia. Changes in thinking such as hallucinations or distortions are also serious symptoms, and medical care should be sought right away.
Published On: June 13, 2014